Tuesday, March 05, 2024

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Amnesty shuts shop

Amnesty shuts shop

The human rights watchdog may have looked at India through a Western prism but can we dispute its findings on Delhi riots?

The trouble with human rights watchdogs is that they have, by virtue of countering the establishment narrative, assigned themselves a certain kind of legitimacy and credibility without realising that some of their own investigations are compromised by subjective assessment rather than objective investigation. This has also been a problem with Amnesty International, which has many times been accused of looking at India through a Western prism. But as a robust democracy, we have it within ourselves to accept vilification and acknowledge cogent counterpoints. We shouldn’t need lobbyists to get the other side of the story; our media should be free to do that. Besides, by and large, the organisation has an international acceptability even if we take some of its reports with a pinch of salt. But by targetting Amnesty, which says it is now forced to shut shop in India because the Government has completely frozen its bank accounts here, we appear to be in the bracket of oppressor and authoritative regimes like China. And considering its activists have been particularly penalised for tracking dissent pan-India over the last two years, it gives them a moral upper hand and claim a witch-hunt. The reasons that the organisation lists behind the Government crackdown on it are the same as those cited by tormented civil society activists — namely “unequivocal calls for transparency in the Government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir.” Frankly, even without the Amnesty’s reports, there is far too much on-ground evidence of the charges it has made. And the way the disclosure statements and names in the chargesheet of the Delhi Police on the city riots have been circled out, targetting the liberal intelligentsia, protesters and activists while leaving out the inflammatory fringe Rightists, there is a move to freeze the right of democratic dissent. So the timing of its India exit suits Amnesty more than us at this point of time.  

 It would have made more sense had the Government zeroed in on Amnesty in 2016, when it was booked in a sedition case for allowing “anti-India” slogans on Kashmir at an event in Bengaluru. But to pursue it for violating foreign funding rules in 2019 obviously raises questions on intent. Amnesty though claims that its India operations have been funded domestically. The immediate context seems to be the report it released last month on the complicity of Delhi police in the riots. Yes we must defend our pluralism and challenge the official narrative. But by hounding out Amnesty, we have a public relations battle ahead. Nothing will happen to it. Nothing would have if it had been allowed to continue.

Amnesty shuts shop

Amnesty shuts shop

The human rights watchdog may have looked at India through a Western prism but can we dispute its findings on Delhi riots?

The trouble with human rights watchdogs is that they have, by virtue of countering the establishment narrative, assigned themselves a certain kind of legitimacy and credibility without realising that some of their own investigations are compromised by subjective assessment rather than objective investigation. This has also been a problem with Amnesty International, which has many times been accused of looking at India through a Western prism. But as a robust democracy, we have it within ourselves to accept vilification and acknowledge cogent counterpoints. We shouldn’t need lobbyists to get the other side of the story; our media should be free to do that. Besides, by and large, the organisation has an international acceptability even if we take some of its reports with a pinch of salt. But by targetting Amnesty, which says it is now forced to shut shop in India because the Government has completely frozen its bank accounts here, we appear to be in the bracket of oppressor and authoritative regimes like China. And considering its activists have been particularly penalised for tracking dissent pan-India over the last two years, it gives them a moral upper hand and claim a witch-hunt. The reasons that the organisation lists behind the Government crackdown on it are the same as those cited by tormented civil society activists — namely “unequivocal calls for transparency in the Government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir.” Frankly, even without the Amnesty’s reports, there is far too much on-ground evidence of the charges it has made. And the way the disclosure statements and names in the chargesheet of the Delhi Police on the city riots have been circled out, targetting the liberal intelligentsia, protesters and activists while leaving out the inflammatory fringe Rightists, there is a move to freeze the right of democratic dissent. So the timing of its India exit suits Amnesty more than us at this point of time.  

 It would have made more sense had the Government zeroed in on Amnesty in 2016, when it was booked in a sedition case for allowing “anti-India” slogans on Kashmir at an event in Bengaluru. But to pursue it for violating foreign funding rules in 2019 obviously raises questions on intent. Amnesty though claims that its India operations have been funded domestically. The immediate context seems to be the report it released last month on the complicity of Delhi police in the riots. Yes we must defend our pluralism and challenge the official narrative. But by hounding out Amnesty, we have a public relations battle ahead. Nothing will happen to it. Nothing would have if it had been allowed to continue.

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