CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, has condemned a recent raid carried out on facilities associated with human rights defender Harsh Mander, director of the Centre for Equity Studies, and called on the Indian government to stop intimidating rights activists.
On Sept. 16, the Enforcement Dire-ctorate under the Ministry of Finance conducted the raid on Mander’s residence, the Centre for Equity Studies’ office and a children’s home run by the organization under the pretext of investigating money-laundering allegations against him. The raid was carried out several hours after he departed for Germany to attend a fellowship program.
Mander has been critical of the Narendra Modi government. He has rais-ed concerns about how the government handled the pandemic, the increasing attacks on press freedom and the discri-minatory citizenship law passed in 2019 which human rights groups have called “unconstitutional and divisive.” Following the raid, more than 500 activists in India issued a joint statement in solidarity with Mander and condemned the intimi-dation tactics.
“The authorities must halt their harassment of human rights activist Harsh Mander. These actions conducted by the Enforcement Directorate are a clear tactic to intimidate and criminalize the defender. It also creates a chilling effect on govern-ment critics and is a strategy to force many to self-censorship,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS civic space researcher for Asia Pacific.
Similar raids were conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in October 2020 on two children’s homes associated with Mander based on accusations of financial irregu-larities and illicit activities.