Centre likely to deny Amnesty permission for opening South Asia hub in India

  • Rajesh Ahuja, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 19, 2016 01:43 IST
Students and ABVP activists shout slogans at a protest in Hubli on Wednesday, demanding the immediate arrest of the accused booked under sedition charges for alleged anti-national slogans at an event of Amnesty International India recently. (PTI)

Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International’s plan to set up a South Asia hub in India is in jeopardy, with the government deciding against allowing it to bring in funds from abroad.

This seems to be the first casualty of the sordid situation that Amnesty International’s India chapter has lately found itself in. An FIR under sedition charges was filed against the organisation after alleged anti-India slogans were raised at an event held in Bengaluru. However, the human rights body has denied the allegations, terming them baseless.

Amnesty International registered itself as a non-profit company in India in May last year, and it is a separate entity from its India chapter. The objective of the company was to coordinate its activities in South Asia, except India.

Read: Amnesty India temporarily closes offices, postpones events after sedition row

“On August 13 last year, Amnesty International sought permission from the government to bring in Rs 18.61 crore for setting up office infrastructure in India. But we have decided not to give it,” said a senior government official on the condition of anonymity.

Amnesty International did not react immediately to the development.

A source said the government wants the India chapter of Amnesty International to register itself under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the law that governs the foreign funding of NGOs.

When contacted, a spokesperson from the organisation said: “We have not received any notice from the government in this regard. We will respond only after receiving an intimation.”

In a review of Amnesty India’s funding, the government found that instead of registering itself under the FCRA, the outfit sought one-time permissions to bring in funds from abroad on eight occasions since 2000. However, the government denied permission four out of eight times.

Read: Space for civil society and dissent in India is shrinking: Amnesty India chief

Significantly, the government did not allow Amnesty to bring in any funds from abroad on the last three occasions since 2012.

On December 19, 2000, Amnesty India was granted permission to bring GBP 1,30,629 into the country for the first time under the prior permission category. GBP 2,21,428 was brought in again on November 14, 2003.

In 2009 as well, the home ministry allowed Amnesty to bring in Rs 54,40,000. But in 2010, the government, for the first time, denied it permission to bring in Rs 3,272,000. Again the government gave it one-time permission to receive Rs 1,69,59,226 on March 28, 2012. But, on the last three occasions, Amnesty India’s applications to bring in Rs 1,69,59,226 on November 2, 2012, Rs 2,65,76,204 on November 7, 2012, and Rs 8,000,000 on March 13, 2013, were rejected.

“Amnesty should get itself registered under the FCRA instead of repeatedly seeking one-time permission. This is why permission was not granted,” said the government official.

However, Amnesty’s India chapter has maintained that the FCRA is a “much-abused law” that’s used to harass NGOs who challenge the powers that be.

Read: Charities alarmed over closure of Amnesty offices, ask govt not to be like China

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