Activist and author Harsh Mander on Saturday called the tax department notice issued to an organisation he runs an “act of state vengeance and intimidation”. He said the notice from income tax officials came just days after an ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Rakesh Sinha, said in a “barely veiled threat” on TV that his organisations’ funding would be investigated.
In a press statement, Mander said: “The Income Tax Department may claim that this is just a routine notice. But the timing of the notice, shortly after the public threat for getting the funding of ‘my’ organisations investigated, and the fact that less than 1% of returns are scrutinised, suggest that this could well be an act of state vengeance and intimidation.”
Mander is the director and co-founder of the Centre for Equity Studies. He said the organisation would be happy to subject itself “to any scrutiny” and fully cooperate with the investigation.
Sinha and Mander were part of a television debate on September 14, in which the RSS ideologue made “angry personalised attacks”, Mander said. On September 19, the Income Tax Department sent the Centre for Equity Studies a notice under Section 143(2) of the Income Tax Act asking for full scrutiny of returns filed for assessment year 2016-17.
On September 15, Mander was part of a civil society initiative, Karwan-e-Mohabbat, which was stopped by right-wing activists in Rajasthan’s Behror from paying tribute to mob-lynching victim Pehlu Khan.
The police later allowed Mander to visit the site of Khan’s murder after he protested.
Mander said on Saturday, “I would like to state categorically that no amount of state intimidation of the organisations that I am associated with will succeed in silencing my public dissent with policies and ideologies that I believe are detrimental to India’s constitutional values.”