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Amnesty India says raid aimed at silencing government critics

BENGALURU (SE): The bank accounts of human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, in India have been frozen, effectively stopping its work, after the government’s financial crime investigating agency, the Enforcement Directorate, carried out a 10-hour raid at the group’s Bengaluru office on October 25, Vatican News reported on October 26.
“Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), effectively stopping our work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country,” Amnesty India posted on its website. 
Vatican News reported that the Enforcement Directorate searched Amnesty’s Bengaluru office on suspicion that it had violated foreign direct investment guidelines and said that further investigations were ongoing.
“The Enforcement Directorate’s raid on our office today shows how the authorities are now treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises, using heavy-handed methods that are commonly found in repressive states,” Aakar Patel, Amnesty International India’s executive director, said after the raid.  
“Our staff have been harassed and intimidated,” he said. 
Employees were told to shut their laptops and not allowed to use their phones to call friends and families, Amnesty said, adding it fully cooperated.
The government of prime minister, Narendra Modi, has tightened surveillance on non-profit groups over the past four years, claiming they are acting against India’s interests.  
The licences of thousands of foreign-funded groups have been cancelled or suspended on charges such as misreporting of donations.
Patel said that as an organisation committed to the rule of law, Amnesty’s operations in India have always conformed with national regulations. “The principles of transparency and accountability are at the heart of our work. We have nothing to hide. Everything about our structure has been available in the public domain for all to see,” Patel added.
Amnesty has been regularly vocal about India of human rights violations in the restive Himalayan region of Kashmir.

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