THE forces of darkness in India grow more menacing by the day as all remaining checks on their depredations are methodically dismantled by the state. Amnesty International has announced it is suspending its operations in that country after its bank accounts were frozen last month by the Indian government as part of what the organisation described as an “incessant witch-hunt” against rights groups.
For its part, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government accuses the organisation of being involved in the illegal transfer of large amounts of money from its UK operation to India. Amnesty India has denied the claims of financial misconduct and vowed to challenge the freezing of its accounts through the courts. In a blunt statement, Amnesty India’s executive director said that “Treating human rights groups like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence is a deliberate attempt… to stoke a climate of fear”.
Judging by the increasingly fascist trends in India, it is certainly not coincidental that the last roadblock created in the way of Amnesty’s work follows on the heels of two reports by the organisation that were highly critical of the government’s human rights record. One pertained to violations by security forces in India-held Kashmir and the other to police conduct during recent sectarian rioting in New Delhi.
Our neighbour to the right has always exhibited a certain disdain for international human rights organisations. That disdain has grown into paranoia and outright hostility as the Modi government has sought to strip the country of its pluralistic character and give it an undeniably saffron stamp. Even egregious crimes such as the gang rape of a Muslim shepherd girl by Hindu men in IHK a couple of years ago acquired a communal colour rather than evoking across-the-board revulsion. Shrill right-wing jingoism is now part of the dominant discourse in India and dissent is increasingly fraught with peril.
Critics of the government, including journalists, activists, lawyers, etc, are subjected to investigation and detention, often under harsh anti-terrorism laws. Modi’s illegal annexation of Kashmir and the miseries heaped on its beleaguered populace have gone hand in hand with the state’s efforts to bring down a veil of secrecy over its excesses. Foreign diplomats have faced extraordinary resistance to travelling freely in IHK to gauge the situation for themselves. Day by day, India’s claim of being a democracy, let alone the world’s largest, is becoming fatally compromised.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2020