Over 600 eminent personalities on Thursday said that raids at the premises of human rights activist Harsh Mander should be seen as part of the Centre’s use of government institutions to “threaten, intimidate and silence” its critics.
“We condemn these raids to harass and intimidate a leading human rights and peace activist who has done nothing but work for peace and harmony, consistently upholding the highest moral standards of honesty and probity,” they said in a statement.
The signatories of the statement include economist Jean Dreze, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Ribero, activist Aruna Roy, Delhi University professor Apoorvanand, former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, women’s right activist Kavita Krishnan, advocate Mihir Desai and filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, among others.
Earlier on Thursday, the Enforcement Directorate conducted raids at Mander’s home in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area, his office in the Centre for Equity Studies at the city’s Sarvodaya Enclave locality, and Umeed, a children’s home that his organisation runs in the Mehrauli neighbourhood.
The raids were conducted a day after Mander had left for Berlin in Germany for a nine-month-long fellowship with the Robert Bosch Academy.
Earlier too, government agencies had raided places linked to Mander.
Last October, two children’s homes that the activist is associated with were raided by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The child rights body had alleged financial irregularities in the organisations associated with Mander and claimed that children from these homes were taken to protest sites.
It had also alleged that the Centre for Equity Studies, where Mander serves as the director, had received “hefty funds” that were being used for “illicit activities like religious conversion”.
In the statement on Thursday, the signatories said that the Centre for Equity Studies was also “harassed” by the Economic Offences Wing and the Income Tax Department without any prove that money was diverted from the organisation or that it violated any laws.
The signatories said that the allegations made by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights were “false and malicious”.
They pointed out that the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights had put an end to these allegations against the Centre for Equity Studies in its affidavit filed before the High Court.
In its affidavit, the Delhi child rights body told the High Court in June that it conducted four enquiries at the children’s homes following the allegations made by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, reported The Wire.
The Delhi child rights body had said it found that the allegations lacked merit and were not based on evidence.
“We stand with Harsh Mander and with each person associated with the Centre for Equity Studies,” the signatories said. “The Constitution of India and the law of the land shall prevail, exposing these intimidatory tactics exactly for what they are – an abuse of state institutions to try and curtail all our rights.”