Amnesty International announced on Tuesday that it would close its operations in India after its bank accounts were frozen and its executives questioned following the publication of two reports by the group criticizing government human rights figures.
The group said it was a victim of an increasingly aggressive Indian government that has attacked anyone who speaks negatively about it.
Critics of government policies face threats and arrests by leaders of the world’s largest democracy.
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Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said the government’s goal was to “create a climate of fear”.
He added that India “treats human rights organizations as criminal enterprises and dissenters as criminals without any credible evidence.”
Amnesty said its decision to close the store and lay off all its workers was the culmination of a two-year harassment campaign by the Interior Ministry, as well as the “continuous witch hunt” of human rights groups by Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. Prime Minister of the country and a close friend of President Trump.
Repression against government critics – from students to reporters – increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. Courts have not yet resumed regular schedules and protests have been banned across India.
In all, Amnesty has said it will cut more than 100 staff and suspend its campaign for human rights in the country.
The group’s recent work included reports of police involvement in religious riots in Delhi, as well as an in-depth study of India’s military movements in Kashmir.
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“Unfortunately, this crucial work of protecting victims has been met with the harsh tactics that Indian civil society is becoming increasingly familiar with – part of the government’s efforts to silence critical voices and create a climate of fear,” said Julie Verhaar, acting Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a written statement.