Greenpeace recreates iconic Bollywood posters to highlight nationwide crackdown on civil liberties

Campaign to reclaim right to dissent launched as the Ministry of Home Affairs cancels FCRA registration

Press release - September 4, 2015
New Delhi, 4 September 2015: The Ministry of Home Affairs has filed an affidavit informing the Delhi High Court that Greenpeace India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence has been cancelled (1). Although the court hearing originally scheduled for today has been deferred to the 17th of September, the environmental NGO has reiterated its commitment to continuing its campaigns with the support of Indian donors, and launched a new online campaign recreating Bollywood movie posters (2) to highlight real life stories about reclaiming freedom of speech.

“The cancelling of our FCRA registration is part of the government’s relentless onslaught against the right of all Indians to speak up and demand a healthy environment, good governance, and transparency in public processes,” said Vinuta Gopal, interim co-Executive Director of Greenpeace India.  “While our continued existence has been no less dramatic than the best of Bollywood, with twists and turns every day, our story is far from unique. Similar clampdowns have been seen all across the country, but we are confident that people will join our campaign, and send a clear message to those in power: you can’t muzzle dissent in a democracy.”

Over the last year, licenses of about 14000 NGOs have been either cancelled or suspended (3), while show cause notices have been issued to news channels for their coverage of politically sensitive stories. Students from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) were arrested in a midnight crackdown to stop them from protesting against a politically motivated appointment of their Chairman. These actions are clearly politically motivated to restrict freedom of speech and opinion.

"Cancelling our ability to receive foreign money? That changes nothing. We have enough support from thousands of ordinary Indians to continue our work. I’ve been working for the environment for the past  20 years, and I am going to continue for as long as I can, simply because of the joy I get from doing it.  It’s ridiculous to see the government trying every pressure tactic they can get away with, but the support for Greenpeace only increases  the passion I have for my work and my faith in Indian democracy," said  Nirmala Karunan, Political Advisor, Greenpeace India.

Their spirits undaunted by the latest legal challenge, Greenpeace staff and volunteers have recreated nine iconic Bollywood film posters including Swades, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and 3 Idiots (4). Members of the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, a people’s movement in Madhya Pradesh, have also joined in, showcasing their hard-won battle to save their forest by recreating the Aamir Khan starrer Lagaan. The online protest is open to public participation, particularly from other civil society groups facing challenges similar to Greenpeace.

Greenpeace, along with many other organisations, have been on the receiving end of the government’s ire. Over the past year, Greenpeace’s accounts were frozen, its reputation smeared and staff banned from travel both into and out of the country. Government agencies have done everything they could to shut down Greenpeace offices, harass its staff and force the organisation to end its operations in India yet it remains stronger than ever.

“Despite the MHA’s many efforts over the last year, and in good Bollywood tradition, Greenpeace is still alive; the good guys live to fight another day: because we are right, and because we are fighting the good fight. Our campaigns for a healthier environment and a more sustainable future for all will continue undeterred because in life, as in art, the show must go on.” concluded Vinuta Gopal.

Notes to the Editor:

1) http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/Press/Greenpeace-statement-in-response-to-the-cancellation-of-its-FCRA-licence/

2) Greenpeace invites the media to participate in, and actively promote our campaign for dissent in democracy. All posters can be viewed here.

3) MHA cancels licences of over 15,000 NGOs for violations of FCRA

4) Link to Bollywood Campaign website

For more information contact:

Madhulika Verma, Communications Specialist, Greenpeace India, +91 9971137736,
Hozefa Merchant: Campaigner, , +91 9560706856
Avinash Chanchal: Communication Specialist, Greenpeace India; +91 8359826363;
Jitendra Kumar: Communication Specialist, Greenpeace India; +91 9868167337;