Amnesty International's chief Kumi Naidoo says the rights group won't be intimidated by Indian PM Modi's government for raising concerns about disputed Kashmir where a stringent lockdown and communication blackout entered 43rd day.

Kumi Naidoo, the Amnesty International Secretary General poses during an interview with AFP news agency on September 16, 2019, in US.
Kumi Naidoo, the Amnesty International Secretary General poses during an interview with AFP news agency on September 16, 2019, in US. (AFP)

Amnesty International's chief vowed on Monday that the rights group would not be silenced on raising concerns about disputed Kashmir despite what he called intimidation by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

India's financial crime investigators recently accused Amnesty's local branch of violating foreign exchange regulations through taking money from its London-based parent.

That claim came after Amnesty vocally criticised Modi's Hindu nationalist government on Kashmir, after New Delhi's communication blackout and stripping of the region's limited autonomy.

"The Modi government has made a very big attempt to crush Amnesty in India," Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's secretary-general, told AFP news agency on a visit to Washington.

"On the Kashmir question, on various human rights questions in India itself, we are not intimidated," he said.

"While our colleagues in our Indian office are under stress, they are as committed, motivated and courageous as ever, if not more, as a result of the repression that we face."

Life-and-death issues

Modi's government has cracked down on foreign non-governmental organisations since coming to power in 2014, suspending or banning thousands of groups, many working in health or the environment, for receiving money from abroad.

Naidoo, however, said that Amnesty –– whose Bangalore office was raided last year –– would survive in India as it has funding from local donors.

Amnesty has faced heated criticism from India's right-wing for its stance on Kashmir, where authorities have largely shut down the internet, mobile service and initially also landlines.

"It is a horrific thing to actually cut people's legitimate way of communicating with each other completely," Naidoo said.

"There are life-and-death issues associated with doing that. Whether it is family members needing to communicate with each other, being able to go to the doctor's, this is something that governments need to stop doing," he said.

"And, sadly, there are more and more governments doing it, and we need to speak out against this very strongly."

Harsh lockdown

India stripped its portion of Muslim-majority Kashmir of autonomy and statehood on August 5, shutting off phone networks and imposing curfew-like restrictions in some areas to dampen discontent.

It has reportedly arrested over 4,000 people since then including three forme chief ministers and number of pro-Indian politicians as well as pro-resistance leaders. 

Locals have accused the Indian army of torture which they say is aimed at creating a climate of fear in the long-restive and blood-soaked Himalayan region –– charge Indian officials deny. 

Kashmir has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between Pakistan and India, two nuclear-armed arch-rivals. 

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule. 

Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989. 

Source: AFP