Over 600 eminent personalities on Thursday, 16 September, condemned the raids on retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Harsh Mander’s home and office, calling it a move by the Centre’s government institutions “to silence every critic of the present government”.
“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 included senior advocate Indira Jaising; Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch; Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA General Secretary; Teesta Setalvad, CJP; senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta; Ritu Kapur, The Quint; Dhanya Rajendran, The News Minute; and senior journalist Anubha Bhonsle.
The raids took place only hours after Mander and his wife left for Germany for a fellowship at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. Mander, who has been critical of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had also been a part of the anti-CAA protests and had carried out food distribution drives during the stringent COVID lockdown last year.
“Over the past year, Harsh Mander and the CES have been subjected to continued harassment by multiple state agencies. The false and malicious allegations by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) were definitively countered by the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), a statutory body, which has filed a strong affidavit in the Delhi High Court, putting an end to the false allegations against CES,” the statement said.
“All these vindictive efforts combined, have shown neither diversion of money nor any violation of the law. The current raids by the ED and IT department are to be viewed in this context, as part of a continuing chain of abuse of state institutions to threaten, intimidate and try to silence every critic of the present government,” it added.
“We stand with Harsh Mander and with each person associated with the Centre for Equity Studies. 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,” they said.
Congress Leader Digvijay Singh Condemns the ED Raids
Congress leader Digvijay Singh, The Wire’s Editor-in-chief Siddharth Varadarajan, and other netizens had condemned the ED raids and called it an intimidation tactic to curb dissenting voices.
Singh said in a tweet, “He (Mander) tirelessly worked for Communal Harmony & his ‘Karwan e Mohabbat’ has been very successful in bridging relationships between Hindus and Muslims. He has been under attack from Right Wing and BJP troll army. This action is pure Vindictiveness and of Harassment. We stand by him. (sic)”
Earlier, Mander had called the allegations ‘completely unjustified’ and said, “We created a very strong system, like we had elder women (caretakers) sleeping with smaller children, and we have counselling. It is just an allegation and a rumour,” NDTV reported.
Details of the Raids
On Thursday, the ED raided Mandar’s home in Vasant Kunj, the Centre for Equity Studies, of which he is a chairperson, and the two children’s homes run by him in Mehrauli – Umeed Aman Ghar (for boys) and Khushi Rainbow Home (for girls). The ED reportedly seized all devices.
According to NDTV, the raids began at 8 am and were connected to a money-laundering probe based on an FIR (First Information Report) filed by the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police in February this year. The FIR by Delhi Police invokes charges like cheating, breach of trust and criminal conspiracy.
(With inputs from NDTV, The Indian Express.)