A Greenpeace protest is one that sends chills down the spine of many bureaucrats and politicians, especially when they are being targeted. And taking part in one such action is every campaigners "D" day. It's the day when your campaign, what you have been fighting for goes public on a mega scale. May 15 was that auspicious day for the National Renewable Energy campaign when our Greenpeace activists rolled out 6 solar panels weighing over 250kg in front of Delhi Power Minister Haroon Yusuf's residence.
The tension started to build up the moment the police got aware of our presence and the media. There were about 5 to 6 policemen initially but the pressure started to build up as more policemen arrived on their bright yellow Enfields trying to understand what the commotion was all about. Soon, one of the on-duty-officers took charge and invited two of our negotiators inside the minister's house to meet his personal secretary. But the secretary tried to ward us off by misinforming us that the minister is out for a meeting and would come back at 1.00pm. I believe he underestimated the resilience of Greenpeace activists.
Once the activists heard the lie, they locked themselves down to the panels to indicate that they are not moving anywhere without meeting the minister. Realizing the situation, the police got aggressive and violently tried to push away the huge panel frame along with the activists locked to it. It was disheartening to see the police manhandle peaceful protesters, even as one of our police liaisons Usha was making a point that the activist was handcuffed and moving the frame can seriously injure the person.
But the police did manage to move the activists away from the gate. Seeing the men in the khakhi behave forcefully, the media swarmed around the gate. At this moment, the DCP arrived to calm the situation and intervened by arranging a meeting between Greenpeace's negotiators and the minister inside his residence. What was most interesting was that the DCP was interested in putting solar panels on roof of the commissioner's office and even invited us to do a presentation.
Inside the residence, Mr Yusuf seemed quite keen to know about our activity but the meeting ended without an outcome as the angry minister failed to accept any of our demands. Even during the discussion, the power minister appeared clueless on the policies and regulatory mechanism in the state and offered no solution or ideas on his government plans to tackle the looming power crisis in Delhi. The only solution he did offer was that he would take up the issue with the higher ups. And though he accepted the solar panels which we brought for him as a gift, he refused to leave his fortress to personally receive the panels.
It was indeed an eventful day for Greenpeace and media. Another black day when the Delhi Police clamped down on peaceful protesters and not to mention a powerless show by a power minister. Sadly, for Delhi, which is staring in the face of an electricity crisis, it was a day of missed opportunity.
All photos © Sudhanshu Malhotra
Anand Prabhu is Climate & Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace India.