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If, to be put on trial for speaking out for equality and justice is a crime, the society needs some serious introspection. The way the voice of Greenpeace India has been muzzled over the past few years is a classic case of state-backed oppression against the principles of freedom and natural justice. Greenpeace India has been drawn into a never-ending legal battle of unproven allegations, with the sole intention of weaning out the organization of its resources and energy. All, at the behest of capitalist interests backed by the state machinery.

With time ticking, the ploy seems to have worked brilliantly in the favor of the crony capitalists as Greenpeace India has finally taken a hit. Following an Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid and a barrage of baseless allegations, Greenpeace India’s bank accounts were frozen in October 2018, blocking donations of thousands of environmentally conscious Indian citizens. A Karnataka High Court order allowed the organization to access its funds on furnishing a bank guarantee of Rs 50 lakhs. But the harassment continues, despite the court directing the ED to expedite the investigation. As ED drags its feet over the investigations, come January 2019, the organization will have to resort to a massive downsizing and restructuring exercise due to paucity of funds.

Expressing disdain on the current regime’s hostility in context of the findings of the report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released earlier this year, Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace India, Pujarini Sen says, “We have 12 years to take decisive action to solve the climate crisis. Organizations like Greenpeace India — the work we do here, is crucial in this endeavor. We’ve worked to ensure the country moves towards energy transition and is climate resilient. Personally, I can’t imagine spending the next 12 years doing anything other than what we are doing now. In this circumstance, being faced with the prospect of cutting our resources and therefore our efforts is disheartening.”

Tiger Action at Coal Ministry in India. © Sudhanshu Malhotra

Greenpeace activists place life size tigers outside the main gate of the Ministry of Coal in New Delhi, to protest against the threat coal mining poses to tiger habitat in central India. They also demanded a meeting with the Minister, Shri Prakash Jaiswal. The minister agreed to meet Greenpeace activists and the tiger mascot who handed him petitions from 112,000 people from across the country. © Sudhanshu Malhotra

It’s a shame. So much so for speaking out for the rights and interests of the people of this country, against the will of a few profiteers, who stand exposed milking the nation’s resources and its very masses recklessly for their profits. What started off in 2014 with an alleged Intelligence Bureau (IB) report (the intent and existence of which still remains dubious) was followed up with a series of meticulous impositions, inhibitions and constraints. Fabricated narratives against Greenpeace India have been spewed all the while, under the garb of safeguarding pseudo-national interests as a part of vendetta politics attempting to bring ignominy. One of the core elements of Greenpeace India’s work — ensuring and demanding Climate Justice, while exposing inaction, misplaced priorities and wrongdoing of authorities on many occasions –provoked the ire of those in power.

The proposed Mahan coal block in particular, became the bone of contention as the state chose to side with  corporate stakeholders against the rights of the locals in the forests of Mahan. Greenpeace India’s stand on coal growth and destruction of forests in the name of development invited a series of state-sponsored attacks. The dubious IB report resulted in Greenpeace India’s defamation, and bad press, through a loud, biased and opinionated media trial. Besides all this,  Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace campaigner was offloaded from a flight to London, where she was supposed to depose before British Parliamentarians about the wrongdoings of a London-registered company, Essar. The company was unethically duping locals of Mahan for acquiring their land for coal mining. Greenpeace was attacked from other fronts too with cases of tax evasion and  cancellation of registration, among others.

The Greenpeace balloon is prepared to fly over forests in Mahaan in Singrauli, located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Indian film actor Abhay Deol will board one of the balloons to speak to the media and to highlight the threat to the pristine forests in Mahaan from coal mining.

The Greenpeace balloon is prepared to fly over forests in Mahaan in Singrauli, located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Indian film actor Abhay Deol will board one of the balloons to speak to the media and to highlight the threat to the pristine forests in Mahaan from coal mining.

The state-corporate bonhomie, though debatable, has its root in the electoral process of the country. That a massive chunk of campaigning expenditure in elections comes from  large corporate donations to political parties is no hidden fact. It is one of the probable reasons why governments, all over the world, do not like Greenpeace. Their contempt towards Greenpeace stems from the fact that Greenpeace asks uncomfortable questions and holds governments and lawmakers accountable for environmental crimes. In India, Greenpeace India has for long been pressing for switching over to the more sustainable renewable energy, by shunning coal. Naturally, this demand has not gone down too well with the country’s coal lobby. For those, who can join the dots can easily find a connection between organization’s ordeal in recent times and it’s core demands.

Very often, a major reason for the crackdown and also the fuel for the ammo against Greenpeace India has been cited as its funding, which the authorities allege to be sourced from offshore donors and has been painted inappropriate in the government’s narrative. This citation has on multiple occasions been rubbished by the organization as incorrect and no proof has been submitted by the respective authorities to substantiate on these allegations till date. Clearing the air around financial donations further, Nayan Mahesh, an Engagement Campaigner for Greenpeace India, reaffirms the organization’s prior stand stating:  “Greenpeace India is completely funded by Indian Donors. These donors give credibility to our work. A person would donate their hard-earned money to a cause only when they truly believe in that organization’s work. The financial support helps us shape policies and environmental laws towards a sustainable future. By shutting Greenpeace India down, the government is contradicting its own vision of a clean and green future. In my seven years with Greenpeace India, I have discovered the true power of people standing up together for their rights. I’m an environmentalist at heart, and want to continue campaigning for solutions to mitigate climate change, and so are the thoughts of those, who donate to Greenpeace in spite of the negativity that has been propagated against us, all these years.”

Political analysts see the suppression of Greenpeace India as a part of a larger plot of a veiled Neo-nationalist political polarization, being driven for electoral gains time and again (including this time in the lead up to the 2019 general elections). With all the pressure tactics, trials and tribulations, if it has finally come to this, so be it. A new toned-down Greenpeace India may prove much harder for arm-twisting by government whips after all. It could well be a more potent voice for the nation’s environment and the planet’s well-being. The stage is set for a bout between an ant and an elephant; and as the saying goes — it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog; I’ll place my bets on the ant.

Rahul Prasad is a Communications Campaigner with Greenpeace India.