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Activist Claims Link Between Tax Notice, Run-In With RSS Representative

New Delhi:  An institute founded by Harsh Mander, the former IAS officer who is running a nationwide campaign against lynchings by cow vigilantes, has come under the radar of the Income Tax department. The department has sent a notice to the Centre for Equity Studies for “complete scrutiny” of its returns.

Mr Mander says he has been singled out. The activist also says there is link between the notice and his run-in with RSS Ideologue Rakesh Sinha on NDTV’s Left Right and Centre show.

“The Income Tax Department may claim this is just a routine notice,” Mr Mander said. “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 the returns are scrutinised, suggest that this could well be an act of state vengeance and intimidation.”

On September 14, during the debate on the murder of Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader who had been beaten to death in Rajasthan’s Alwar — Mr Sinha had said: “Let there be a probe on the activities of Mr Harsh Mandar’s NGO.”

On September 15, Mr Mander — who is visiting states where lynchings have taken place as part of a special initiative — had placed flowers at the site where Pehlu Khan was beaten up, in spite of being targeted by stone-throwing mobs. The activist describes “Karwan-e-Mohabbat” or the Caravan of Love as a journey of love, atonement and solidarity.

Four days later, the Centre for Equity Studies, of which Mr Mander is the Founder-Director, received the notice from the Income Tax department for a full scrutiny of its tax returns for 2016-17.

The institute was founded in August 2000 by Professor Ghanshyam Shah, Professor S Parasuraman, Professor Jean Dreze, NC Saxena and Mr Mander.

“We are happy to subject ourselves to any scrutiny, and will fully cooperate with the investigation, as we believe in public accountability,” Mr Mander said. But he added that “no amount of state intimidation” would succeed in silencing his “public dissent with policies and ideologies that I believe are detrimental to India’s constitutional values”.