Harsh Mander awarded with IT notice for raising voice against Saffronists

New Delhi: Human rights and peace activist Harsh Mander “NGOs” has been slapped with an Income Tax notice days after clashing with the RSS ideologue, Rakesh Sinha on NDTV  debate.

On September 14,  NDTV Nidhi Razdan anchored a debate on “Key Accused In Lynching Let Off: Did No One Kill Pehlu Khan?”.

During  the debate on the clean chit given to the six accused named by 55-year-old dairy farmer Pehlu Khan in his dying declaration, Rakesh accused Mander of being anti-Hindutva and anti-BJP saying that there should be a thorough probe into the funding and functioning of Harsh’s organisations.

“Harsh Mander is poisoning….he is running an NGO (which is ) anti-Hindutva, anti-RSS and anti-BJP.”- RSS Rakesh Sinha.

The debate had Rakesh Sinha, Congress leader Pawan Khera, senior journalist Javed Ansari and PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava as participants.

The Centre for Equity Studies, run by former IAS officer Mander has been served an Income Tax notice for “complete scrutiny” of its returns.

The timing of the notice, served on September 20, and the fact that “less than 1 per cent of IT returns are scrutinised”, suggest that the move may be an act of “state vengeance and intimidation”, Mander, who is on a nation-wide campaign against mob lynchings, claimed.

A senior Income Tax official, speaking on condition of anonymity, however, said such notices are “routine” and “nothing more should be read into it”.

In a press statement on Saturday, 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.”

The institute, founded in August 2000 by Prof Ghanshyam Shah, Prof S Parasuraman, Prof Jean Dreaze, N C Saxena and Mander, received by email a notice under Section 143 (2) of the Income Tax Act for scrutiny of its I-T returns for the assessment year 2016-17, Mander said in a statement.

Mander is currently visiting various states where lynchings have taken place in the recent months as part of the initiative-Karwan-e-Mohabbat (KeM) or the caravan of love– which he has described as a journey of love, atonement and solidarity.

He said the Centre for Equity Studies has nothing to do with Karwan. The institute brings out the annual India Exclusion Report and works with homeless people and other vulnerable groups, he said.

“We are happy to subject ourselves to any scrutiny, and will fully cooperate with the investigation, as we believe in public accountability.

“But I would like to state categorically that no amount of state intimidation of the organisations that I am associated with, would succeed in silencing my public dissent with policies and ideologies that I believe are detrimental to Indias constitutional values,” he said.

The scrutiny of income tax returns filed by the organisation is being conducted by the exemptions wing of the department that looks after the work of charitable and social organisations, and the notice mentions that all communication in this context will be conducted electronically.

With PTI inputs