Amnesty India raided by CBI in Bengaluru, says there is a ‘pattern of harassment’
The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday raided the Bengaluru offices of Amnesty International India in connection with accusations that the non-profit had received foreign funds in violation of the law. In a statement issued after the raids ended, Amnesty International India insisted it hadn’t violated any law and alleged a “pattern of harassment” had emerged over the past year every time the group speaks out against human rights violations in India.
The CBI raid comes a year after the Enforcement Directorate had carried out investigations into charges that the rights group had attempted to bypass the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act by floating a commercial entity, Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd. In October this year, the ED had also issued a notice that accused the group of receiving Rs 51.72 crore from its parent body Amnesty International UK “in the garb of export of services”.
There has been no formal word from the CBI on the raids.
In a statement later, Amnesty International India said the searches were carried out at Bengaluru offices of Amnesty International India Private Limited and Indians for Amnesty International Trust.
“Over the past year, a pattern of harassment has emerged every time Amnesty International India stands up and speaks out against human rights violations in India,” the statement said.
“Amnesty International 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,” the group said.
The government had earlier declined permission to receive foreign funds to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust that has been critical of security agencies in several cases including the arrest of activists such as Sudha Bharadwaj, Rona Wilson and Varavara Rao, who was accused of being a Maoist ideologue.
Friday’s arrest coincided with the appointment JNU alumnus Avinash Kumar to head Indians for Amnesty International Trust. Kumar, who is director of programmes and policy at WaterAid India, has a doctorate in modern history from the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Kumar had worked earlier with Oxfam and did a post-doctoral fellowship at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
“It’s a great challenge to be leading Amnesty at a time when civil and political rights seem to be increasingly violated in the context of people asserting their socio-economic rights,” Kumar said, according to a statement issued by the group.