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Amnesty International India scales back after threats

August 18, 2016

Amnesty International has temporarily shuttered offices across India over safety concerns. The group also faces criminal charges over allegations by Hindu nationalists that it gave a platform to Kashmir secessionists.

Screenshot Website Amnesty International Indien
Image: amnesty.org.in

Amnesty International's India chapter canceled events and closed offices in major cities including Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore after authorities warned that the London-based rights group could be targeted by the youth wing tied to the government's ruling party.

"The police have information and advised us to take the precaution and we have asked our staff to work from wherever they are and to not go to our offices," Amnesty India spokeswoman Himanshi Matta said Thursday.

Police filed charges against Amnesty for "sedition" and other offenses after a Hindu nationalist student wing of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) objected to an event held in Bangalore to discuss human rights violations in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Amnesty says the allegations of sedition were false, but admitted that some of those who attended the event raised slogans that referred to azadi (freedom), which is politically sensitive as the Muslim-majority province is claimed by both India and its rival Pakistan.

"The allegations mentioned in the complaint are without any basis," Matta said. "The event was an open-door event and people were coming and going. No staff members were involved."

Upcoming seminars canceled

Another seminar - aimed at raising awareness of victims in Kashmir - was planned to take place in Mumbai and New Delhi next week, but has been postponed due to security concerns, she added.

India has been accused for years of rights abuses while it battles a separatist insurgency in Kashmir. A controversial law gives security forces sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot people.

Indian-administered Kashmir is in the throes of its worst unrest in six years after security forces last month assassinated a young separatist figure who had grown into a social-media celebrity.

At least 64 people - civilians and security forces - have been killed in the last 40 days in street demonstrations despite a strict curfew imposed on residents across the Himalayan region.

jar/tj (Reuters, dpa)