Essar tries to use ‘leaked’ IB report to clamp down on people’s protests in Mahan forest, MP

Press release - June 18, 2014
17th June 2014: The company which has initiated a 500-crore Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) case on tribal people and Greenpeace, to stop them from criticising its planned coal mine in Mahan forest, is now trying to use the 'leaked' Intelligence Bureau report in the court. At a hearing on the interim gag order on Greenpeace India, the Bombay High Court Judge asked Essar as to how the leaked Intelligence Bureau report is relevant to the case.

"Essar is already trying to quash any kind of people's movement though the SLAPP suit, and is now trying to use the IB report too. The report has no relevance to the case in question, which is about Greenpeace and community criticisms of Essar's behaviour; it appears Essar is trying to use it to tarnish our names in the court through innuendo. This is how the IB report is serving corporate interests, in trying to cast critical voices as illegitimate, and prevent discussion of the real issues," says Arundhati Muthu, a campaigner with Greenpeace India.

The gag order on Greenpeace and villagers of Mahan came after they carried out a dramatic but peaceful protest at Essar's Headquarters in Mumbai. While Greenpeace activists draped the building with a banner that announced to the world what Essar did to forests, villagers from Mahan sat on a dharna outside the office gate.

"In contrast, the real issue isn't getting a hearing: people in Mahan have been running from pillar to post trying to lodge an FIR against a forged Gram Sabha, based on which the environment ministry granted the Stage II forest clearance to Mahan. But nothing has been done so far," says Muthu.

She adds, "The SLAPP case should be seen in the same light as last week's Intelligence Bureau report. The ability of civil society to propose a better future, is a vital part of India's democracy, and must not be stamped out for the sake of corporate interests. We will continue to fight the SLAPP, and any other attempt to stifle civil society criticism of company's bad behaviour," says Muthu.

The case has been adjourned until June 24.