Amnesty International has called on the Indian government to stop its “escalating crackdown” on protesters, farming leaders and journalists. In a statement, the human rights body, which shut shop in India in September last year, also called for the immediate and unconditional release of those arrested solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.
It highlighted the case of Mandeep Punia, a freelance journalist for The Caravan, who was initially accused of obstructing the police and then of violence. Punia was detained for an initial period of 14 days without being allowed to see a lawyer but was later granted bail.
It regretted that rather than investigating reports of violence against protesters and bringing suspected perpetrators to justice, the authorities hindered access to protest sites and censored social media.
The Government had frozen Amnesty’s bank accounts for alleged violation of foreign exchange laws while the group said it was forced to withdraw from India due to “continuing crackdown” and “harassment”.
In its latest statement, Amnesty said the crackdown on those protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act still hasn’t ended, while new efforts to quell the anti-farm legislation protests have taken shape.The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights had on February 5 called on the Center and protesters to exercise “maximum restraint” and asked the Government should protect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.