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Questionable Role Of Amnesty International In India

by Raju Vernekar
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The Amnesty International India (AII) has halted its work since last month due to alleged reprisal from the Government of India and is in the process of filing an appeal in the Karnataka High Court, against the Government decision. However, its “humanitarian stance” on different topics leaves much to be desired. 
AII’s bank accounts were frozen by the Enforcement Directorate(ED), an investigative agency of the Government in India, since it was remitting a large amount of money to its four entities in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI),.without the permission of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and in violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). Eventually, AII stopped its activities in India on September 29, 2020.   
AII had four entities in India- Amnesty International Foundation, a Trust registered in Delhi, Amnesty International South Asia Foundation, registered as a company in Delhi, Amnesty International India Private Limited, a company registered in Bangalore and Indians for Amnesty International Trust based in Bangalore. 
AII was permitted to remit money to its entities in India under FCRA only once and that too twenty years ago (December 19, 2000). Despite its repeated applications, it was denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per law it is not eligible for such permission. Earlier Amnesty’s activities were stopped in 2010. It restarted operations with a fresh application in 2012. 
Responding to the freezing of bank accounts by the ED, Julie Verhaar, Acting Secretary-General of Amnesty International (AI) said “This is an egregious and shameful act by the Indian Government, which forces us to cease the crucial human rights work for now. However, this does not mark the end of our firm commitment to, and engagement in, the struggle for human rights in India. We will be working resolutely to determine how AI can continue to play our part within the human rights movement in India for years to come”. 
In response, the Government has stated that “India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate. The people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government. Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle it to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India”.
By and large, the stance taken by AII on different social issues raises questions about its intention. For example in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) agitation that took place in February 2020 in the North-East district of Delhi, over 50 people died and nearly 500 were injured. AIA claimed that a majority of those killed were Muslims. There was a disturbing pattern of grave human rights violations committed by the Delhi police, who indulged in violence with the rioters; torturing them in custody and using excessive force on protesters, the AII alleged in a press release dated August 28, 2020 
But the AII did not mention about the role played by JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam and others. A charge sheet was filed against Sharjeel on 25 July 2020 in Delhi’s Patiala House court and he was subsequently arrested under sections 124 (A), 153 (A) on charges of sedition and promoting enmity between two communities. He was arrested under sedition charges for his alleged inflammatory speeches. During his interrogation, he admitted that he “was desperate to take the anti-CAA protests to an all India level and was making vigorous efforts to do the same. He also admitted that he was in touch with one of the members of the Popular Front of India (PFI), who suggested him to protest as a member of PFI. He not only mobilized one of the communities but also set the stage for disruptive ‘Chakka Jam’ across Delhi and other parts of the country. This is as per the charge sheet filed by the Delhi Police. 
On the issue of revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution granting special autonomy to Jammu & Kashmir on 05 August 2019, AII said that the autonomy was granted, amidst a complete communication clampdown, curfew on movement, and mass detentions of political leaders. AII stated this in a release issued on August 05, 2020, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370. It may be recalled that two separate union territories-Kashmir and Ladakh were created after the enactment of the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act on October 31, 2019. However, AII did not mention about militant activities in the Kashmir valley, the “stone-pelting” agitations in 2017, in which a sizable number of security men were injured. Needless to mention that the issues like continuing ceasefire violations by Pakistan, over the Kashmir imbroglio, are never part of the AII’s agenda.
 Yakub Memon
When Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, involved in serial bomb blasts ( blasts that occurred on March 12, 1993, in Mumbai killing 257 people and injured many more ) was sentenced to death on July 31, 2015, in Nagpur, the AII said that “the sentence marks another disheartening use of the death penalty in India. The Indian government essentially killed a man in cold blood to show that killing is wrong. It is a misguided attempt to prevent terrorism, and a disappointing use of the criminal justice system as a tool for retribution. AI opposes the death penalty as a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. However it did not mention what happens to the “right to life” of innocent people killed in the bomb blasts, engineered at the initiative of Yakub and others. 
Gita Sahgal
Gita Sahgal advocate and founder of several women’s rights organizations, who was associated with AI since 2002 was sacked on April 9, 2010, citing “irreconcilable differences of view over policy.” Sahgal had asked AI about its relationship with Moazzam Begg, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee and outreach director of “Cage” (formerly Cageprisoners Ltd). However, AI stated that the idea of jihad in self-defence is not antithetical to human rights, and only the specific form of violent jihad that Moazzam Begg and others assert was the individual obligation of every Muslim. While leaving, Sahgal said that AI’s stance has laid waste to every achievement on women’s equality in recent years and made a mockery of the universality of rights. 
The above examples prove that AI has been supporting rebels, despite their counter-productive missions in the guise of humanitarian work and no country will tolerate such  policies.   

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