In recent weeks and months, Amnesty India through sponsored posts on popular social media platform has been in an overdrive attacking the government for following what is normal course of law and procedures.
However, if one closely examined the track record of Amnesty India, the organisation’s crying wolf over being investigated for possible financial irregularities seems rather motivated and uncalled for. Just days ago, PM Modi in his reply to the presidential address had revealed, “about 20000 NGOs have shut their operations after the government sought details of their funding. And these numbers may increase in future…”
Therefore, it is timely and instructive to know that there are several instances illustrating why Amnesty India is not a ‘holy cow’ that it is pretending to be.
- This is not the first time that Amnesty India has had a run-in with Indian authorities. Back in February 2014 and under the Congress rule, the Indian government had frozen funding of nearly half a million dollars to Amnesty India over concerns about the source of some of the cash with the home ministry deciding to prevent the organisation from taking receipt of the money from its parent organisation in Britain after around a third of the overall amount was traced to an offshore trust. The trust, based on the island of Gibraltar, was set up by a gambling tycoon who had been convicted of fraud in the United States.
- In Feb 2012, the former PM Manmohan Singh is on record accusing the foreign NGOs – and Amnesty International is an NGO – of disrupting the development path of the country in context of protests against Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Mr Singh had clearly said, “there are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces…”
- In 2009 under Congress-led UPA, Amnesty had to close down its operations in India, owing to the cancellation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).
- In addition, there are numerous incidents to show that Amnesty practices convenient and selective advocacy only taking up the cause of some and overlooking the equally justified cause of others. For example, it often raises the question of so-called ‘excesses’ of Indian army in Kashmir while never even pretending to investigate the plight of the Kashmiri pandits.
- In August 2016, Congress-led Karnataka government had registered a case of sedition against the organisation for staging an event in Bengaluru in which allegedly anti-national and ‘azaadi’ slogans were raised as Kashmir was being discussed. Notably, the representative of Kashmiri Pandits, RK Matoo was not allowed to speak.
- Last year in October, ED had conducted raids on Amnesty offices in connection with alleged violation of foreign direct investment (FDI) norms that is linked to an earlier case of revocation of FCRA licence of the NGO by the Union home ministry in 2010.
- Gita Sahgal, former head of Amnesty International’s gender unit, left the organisation in 2010 after accusing it of being too closely linked to a “pro-jihadi group”. Novelist Nayantara Sahgal’s daughter and Jawaharlal Nehru’s greatniece, Sahgal red-flagged Amnesty’s links with Moazzam Begg, a former prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, whom she called “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”.
- In 2015, Amnesty International was accused of having “private link “private links” with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood which is regarded as a terrorist group by several countries.
- Amnesty International has admitted working with a Swiss-based human rights group whose Qatari cofounder has been accused of financing al-Qaeda
- Organisation deeply upper class and upper caste-dominated, just opposite to what they profess to fight for as several formal employees have revealed. Relatedly, Radhika Vemula, mother of late Rohith Vemula, withdrew her support to the organisation for discriminating against Dalits and Muslims.
Therefore in view of the above, is it not right for any democratically-elected government to pursue those who have enough skeletons hidden in their cupboard? Amnesty has been using the cover of human rights and political motivations to viciously attack the current government when it has been found to be wanting by all governments as shown above. For an NGO which has made it a business to raise issues and not with purity of purpose and intent, the time is right that a no-nonsense government should pursue them legally and set all the wrongs right.