India: Crackdown on opposition reaches a crisis point ahead of national elections

Responding to the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi state Chief Minister and opposition leader from the Aam Aadmi Party, along with freezing of bank accounts of another leading opposition party, Indian National Congress, Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India, said:

“The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Indian government’s crackdown on peaceful dissent and opposition has now reached a crisis point. The authorities have repeatedly exploited and weaponized various financial and terrorism laws to systematically crackdown on human rights defenders, activists, critics, non-profit organisations, journalists, students, academics and political opposition. The arrest of Arvind Kejriwal and the freezing of Indian National Congress’ bank accounts a few weeks before India holds its general elections show the authorities’ blatant failure to uphold the country’s international human rights obligations.  

The growing crackdown clearly shows the authorities’ blatant disregard for human rights and rule of law.

Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India

“What we are witnessing is a brutal crackdown on human rights including through the misuse of central investigative and financial agencies, attacks on peaceful protests, arbitrary arrests, use and export of invasive spyware for unlawful surveillance, systematic discrimination against religious minorities to feed into their majoritarian Hindutva politics and targeted suspension of opposition leaders from the Parliament who dare to hold the authorities to account.  

“The growing crackdown clearly shows the authorities’ blatant disregard for human rights and rule of law. Authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone in the country including human rights defenders, activists, and opposition candidates before, during and after the general elections which are due to begin in April 2024. Authorities must also ensure access to justice and effective remedies for victims of human rights violations.  

“State institutions must be allowed to function independently and effectively. Authorities must stop weaponizing the criminal justice system to intimidate and harass human rights defenders, activists and opposition candidates.”


Weeks before the national elections, the Delhi Chief Minister and national convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Arvind Kejriwal was arrested last evening while several other party workers were detained protesting his arrest in Delhi, India. All the main leaders of the party are also in pre-trial detention in connection with a liquor case.

Also, the Indian National Congress (INC) party has accused the government of damaging their ability to campaign for the elections by freezing its bank accounts in a tax dispute that dates back to 2018-19.

The AAP and INC are together part of the I.N.D.I.A. group forming the main political opposition in the country.

On 31 January, Hemant Soren, now-former Chief Minister of Jharkhand state and member of the opposition party Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was also arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on charges under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and continues to be in jail. 

India’s deteriorating human rights situation, in particular the crackdown on government critics ahead of the upcoming General Elections has been criticized by the United Nations and its special rapporteurs and most recently by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in a hearing held yesterday. 

Amnesty International is a global human rights movement, independent of any government, political ideology or economic interest. Raising concerns about human rights violations against individual candidates, members or supporters of a political party or advocates of a particular political position does not imply that Amnesty International supports that party or candidate’s platform.