New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday conducted raids at the offices of Amnesty International India’s (AII) offices in Bengaluru and New Delhi. According to ANI, the CBI team is investigating the human rights organisation over alleged irregularities in the funds it obtained through the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
Amnesty India, however, is contesting the charges and views these raids as “harassment” by the Union government.
“The Central Bureau of Investigation today conducted searches at the offices of Amnesty International India Private Limited and Indians for Amnesty International Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Amnesty India’) in Bengaluru and New Delhi. Over the past year, a pattern of harassment has emerged every time Amnesty India stands up and speaks out against human rights violations in India,” a press release issued by AII said.
Karnataka: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team conducted a raid on Amnesty International Group in Bengaluru, in connection with violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The raid has now concluded. pic.twitter.com/PSMiynTqXb
— ANI (@ANI) November 15, 2019
An employee of AII, on the condition of anonymity, told The Wire that the CBI raids have come at a time when the organisation has been seriously campaigning against human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir following the Centre’s moves to read down Article 370.
In October last year, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had conducted searches at two locations of AII in Bengaluru over alleged Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations. AII had then categorically stated that its functioning has been transparent and that none of the allegations were true.
The employee said that the ED had not informed about specific charges against AII until August 2019. “In August, we got a show-cause notice that detailed the charges. We are contesting each and every allegation against us. In fact, we have made all our financial documents public on our website,” the employee added.
Around the same time when AII offices were raided last year, the ED had conducted similar raids in the offices of Greenpeace India, an international non-profit which campaigns for environmental issues, for allegedly violating FEMA norms. Greenpeace India, too, had strongly denied such claims.
Why does India continue to harass human rights organizations like @AIIndia? Disturbing and concerning. This comes weeks after I testified about the ongoing crackdown civil society is facing in India in front of @HouseForeign Asia Subcommittee & spoke on Kashmir. https://t.co/1LNDNhLmKY
— Francisco Bencosme (@Bencosmef) November 15, 2019
Over the last five years, several non-profits have been under the scanner of Modi government. Agencies like the CBI and ED have alleged that these NGOs were involved in “anti-national activities” but have not managed to prove any of the charges yet.
Precisely for this reason, organisations like Amnesty and Greenpeace believe that such action against them is vindictive, and that the Union government has been trying to silence them by such harassment tactics.
“Only those NGOs which have dissented against some of the Centre’s authoritarian moves are being targeted. This is a pattern. In contrast, no such action was taken against friendly NGOs and think tanks like India Foundation,” a Delhi-based human rights lawyer, who did not want to be named, told The Wire.
Meanwhile, AII has reiterated that it has not violated any Indian law and aims to fight back.
“Amnesty India stands in full compliance with Indian and international law. Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance, and dissent.”