Over 600 eminent personalities on Thursday, condemned the raids on retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Harsh Mander’s home and office, calling it a move by the Centre “to silence every critic of the present government”.
In a statement, they said, “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.”
The eminent signatories included senior advocate Indira Jaising and Henri Tiphagne, Kavita Krishnan of People’s Watch, AIPWA General Secretary Teesta Setalvad, CJP’s senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Ritu Kapur, The Quint’s Dhanya Rajendran, The News Minute; and senior journalist Anubha Bhonsle.
The raids were conducted hours after Retired IAS Mander and his wife left for Germany for a fellowship at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. Mander has always been critical of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He had also been a part of the anti-CAA protests and carried out food distribution drives during the deadly Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
“Over the past year, 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.
Calling the raid an intimidation tactic to curb dissenting voices, Congress leader Digvijay Singh, The Wire’s Editor-in-chief Siddharth Varadarajan, and others condemned it.
In a tweet, Singh said, “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 the BJP troll army. This action is pure Vindictiveness and Harassment. We stand by him. (sic)”
According to reports by NDTV, Mander had earlier 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 counseling. It is just an allegation and a rumor.”
The ED had carried out raids in Mandar’s home in Vasant Kunj, the Centre for Equity Studies, and the two children’s homes run by him in Mehrauli – Umeed Aman Ghar (for boys) and Khushi Rainbow Home (for girls). The ED has reportedly seized all devices.
The raids took place around 8 am in connection to a money-laundering inquiry based on an FIR (First Information Report) filed by the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police in February 2020. The FIR by Delhi Police has invoked charges of cheating, breach of trust, and criminal conspiracy.