Amnesty International India halts but did it protect human rights?

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Amnesty International India, the Indian chapter of the London based Non-governmental organisation (NGO) Amnesty International, has announced halting of its work in India citing ‘complete freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the Government of India and ‘incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations’.

“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.

Although this is a despicable act by Modi government, why does it sound like déjà vu?

Amnesty International undoubtedly has done stellar work when it comes to Indian government’s excesses towards its citizens but it does not respect the fine line between batting for terrorists like Yakub Memon who was instrumental in death of many innocent people in India. We have also not seen any work from Amnesty International India on the human rights stemming out of terror activities, especially in the Union territory of Kashmir.

Back in 2016, Gita Sahgal, the former head of Amnesty International’s gender unit left the outfit accusing the institutional bosses of ‘ideological bankruptcy, and ‘misogyny’. In a leaked email sent to its leadership, Sehgal had accused Amnesty of being closely linked to a ‘pro-jihadi group’ in reference to Moazzam Begg, a former inmate at Guantánamo Bay. In her statement, she wrote “The senior leadership of Amnesty International chose to answer the questions I posed about Amnesty International’s relationship with Moazzam Begg by affirming their links with him. Now they have also confirmed that the views of Begg, his associates, and his organization, Cageprisoners, do not trouble them. They have stated that the idea of jihad in self-defense is not antithetical to human rights; and have explained that they meant only the specific form of violent jihad that Moazzam Begg and others in Cageprisoners assert is the individual obligation of every Muslim.”

Amnesty International India was not held in much esteem even by the former Governments including Dr Manmohan Singh’s government but were allowed to function.

There is both support and condemnation of the halting of Amnesty International India’s operations.

“India’s stature as a liberal democracy with free institutions, including media & civil society organisations, accounted for much of its soft power in the world. Actions like this both undermine our reputation as a democracy & vitiate our soft power,” tweeted Dr Shashi Tharoor who is from the Indian National Congress.


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