Srinagar: Expressing concern over the continued raids by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on the homes and premises of civil society groups, human rights defenders and journalists in Jammu and Kashmir, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Thursday asked the government of India to “immediately halt its intensifying suppression of dissent”
Amnesty’s statement comes a day after NIA carried out a series of raids at 10 locations in the Valley and one in Bangalore in connection with a case related to NGOs and trusts diverting funds meant for charitable activities to “secessionist and separatist” activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
“These raids are an alarming reminder that India’s government is determined to suppress all dissenting voices in Jammu and Kashmir. The authorities are evidently targeting these civil society and media groups because of their continued work reporting and advocating for the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir despite a harsh communications blackout that was imposed by the Indian government in the region since 5 August 2019,” said Julie Verhaar, Acting Secretary General of Amnesty International in a statement.
“In a worrying pattern, the UAPA and the foreign funding law are being repeatedly and deliberately weaponized to intimidate, harass and restrict the ability of civil society groups from operating, in clear violation of their rights to freedom of expression and association,” she added.
The statement further said that the raids come after Amnesty International India was forced to halt its work and let go of its employees in the country from 1 October 2020 after its bank accounts were frozen by the government, shortly after it released a Situation Update on human rights in Jammu & Kashmir.
Since 2014, the Amnesty statement said several organizations have been “targeted” under the foreign funding law, including Greenpeace India, Lawyers Collective, Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns, Sabrang Trust, Navsarjan Trust, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, NGO Hazards Centre, and Indian Social Action Forum.
“In September 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCRA was further amended, without any public consultation, to choke civil society in India,” the Amnesty statement said.
“By directly attacking and failing to protect civil society organizations organisations, India stands in a clear violation of its human rights obligations, particularly Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant of the Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which it’s a state party,” it added.
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