On Tuesday, Amnesty International halted its India operations and let go of its staff members. It alleged that the Centre is doing “witch-hunt”. It also claimed that its bank accounts have been completely frozen thus making its ongoing work to a halt.
“The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental. The constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent,” said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.
However, it is not clear that what violation does Amnesty International committed. The human rights group said that it is in complete compliance with all the laws. It criticized the government for purportedly portraying its fundraising model as a money-laundering operation.
Lately, many civil society organisations requested President Ram Nath Kovind to not sign the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020. This Bill, according to civil society organizations demonises NGOs.
An apex body of Indian NGOs, the Voluntary Action Network (VANI) said that the Bill was passed without any proper deliberation and consultation. Moreover, executive director of the Population Foundation of India (PFI), Poonam Muttreja said that the Bill creates a negative perception of the NGO sector. It is feared that the Bill if becomes law then no government irrespective of the party is likely to repel it.
The Bill demonises NGOs on which Muttreja said that during the COVID-19 pandemic hit, NGOs were there for many including the government.
However, the government says that the proposed legislation’s aim is transparency and not against NGOs.