Amnesty International, one of the shadiest non-governmental organisations, was forced to shut down its operations in India on Tuesday after law enforcement authorities froze their bank accounts. It accused the central government of a witch-hunt against ‘human rights organisations’ and blamed them for its decision to wrap up.
As was only to be expected, the decision caused significant distress among ’eminent intellectuals’ and members of ‘civil society’. Soon, such individuals started concocting conspiracy theories regarding the whole matter. Quite erroneously, Amnesty’s decision to shut down operations was linked to a report that they had apparently published on the Anti-Hindu Delhi Riots in February. The organisation itself floated such rumours.
The Delhi Riots report by Amnesty was in itself extremely biased and presented an extremely partisan account of the communal violence that transpired. It accused the Delhi Police of committing human rights violations without taking into account the grave conspiracy by Radical Islamists to unleash chaos across the country. Its executive director also insinuated without any evidence that it was ‘state sponsored’ violence against the Muslim community.
Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of the NGO, said, “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 the Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir.”
Prominent among its followers who floated the theory, Kavita Krishnan, a known Maoist sympathiser, said that the Amnesty International report on the riots documented “torture, violence, rights violations” by the Delhi Police and a month later, it was forced to shut its operations. In an effort to appear smart, she asked whether people understood the chronology of events, referring to an instance where Home Minister Amit Shah had implored people to understand the chronology of events.
Billy Perrigo, a reporter with Time magazine, said, “Just a month ago, Amnesty India released a detailed report with new evidence of police complicity in the northeast Delhi Riots. Now they say the Indian government has shut down all their bank accounts, forcing them to cease operations.”
Then, there was another popular handle who asked people on social if the two events were connected.
Are the two events connected?
In reality, the bank accounts of Amnesty International were also frozen in October 2018 by the Enforcement Directorate after their offices were raided for violation of FCRA laws. “AIIFT was denied the permission/registration under FCRA, 2010 by MHA. They resorted to bypass the FCRA Act by floating commercial entity in the name of Amnesty International India Pvt. Ltd (AIIPL),” a statement issued by the ED nearly two years ago had said.
“This amount was immediately placed in FDs and another Indian entity, Indians for Amnesty International Trust (IAIT) had established an overdraft facility for Rs 14.25 crore keeping the said Rs 10 crore FD as collateral which means the receipt of FDI (foreign direct investment) by trust only,” it had added.
Consequently, Aakar Patel, then head of Amnesty India, had stated, “Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping our work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month. Government authorities are increasingly treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises.”
Thus, quite clearly, the freezing of its bank account had nothing to do with the its report on the Delhi Riots. Following the freezing of the bank account in October 2018, Amnesty international says that it was able to access its funds through an intervention by the Court. Subsequently, it came to know of the government’s decision to freeze its bank accounts again on the 10th of September.
Congress was not fond of Amnesty International either
In 2009, Amnesty International was forced to halt its operations after the UPA government had refused to grant it permission to access funds from its London headquarters. The Home Ministry had rejected its application to seek overseas funds twice since 2006. “We are extremely sorry to inform you that the AII Office is closing down… All the colleagues, working in the AII office will be relieved by March 31, 2009…This is because Government of India continues to deny the FCRA registration to AI India Foundation and our local resources are very insufficient for our survival,” the director of its India chapter had said then.
Thus, quite clearly, even the Congress party, which was extremely fond of NGOs and had stacked the extra-constitutional National Advisory Council with activists from foreign funded NGOs, was not fond of Amnesty International. It is also pertinent to note that the UPA Government, too, had blacklisted numerous NGOs while it was in power although its actions were hardly ever motivated by concerns over national interests.
The action against Amnesty International under NDA Government
The Bengaluru offices of the organisation was raided by the CBI in November 2019 due to alleged irregularities and violation of FCRA norms. The CBI raid on the alleged human rights organisation came just weeks after a show-cause notice was issued to the organisation by ED. The NGO was accused by ED of violations in borrowing and lending regulations of FEMA to the tune of Rs 51.72 crore for rendering civil society activities in the country by getting remittances from its parent body, Amnesty International UK, in the garb of export of services.
ED’s Bengaluru offices were searched by ED in October the previous year in connection with its probe in the alleged violation of FDI guidelines and remittances it had received from the parent body. Amnesty director Aakar Patel’s residence was also searched by ED at that time. Thus, the current action against the organisation is consistent with the approach towards it for a number of years and cannot be attributed towards the Delhi Riots report.
Amnesty’s history of anti-India activities
In a report published in OpIndia in 2019, we explored the connections between Amnesty International India, the British government, and radical Islamists. The organization has a history of meddling with the internal affairs of India. It has constantly been trying to falsely project India as a violator of human rights and ‘oppressor’ of Muslims.
On several occasions, Amnesty India and its former head Aakar Patel kept peddling blatant lies and fake news to portray India negatively. It also campaigned for the arrested Urban Naxals in the Bhima Koregaon violence case. Therefore, its actions clearly tantamount to foreign interference in the domestic issues of India and it is only appropriate that strict action is taken against it.