After the Ministry of Home Affairs conducted its "crackdown" on Greenpeace and suspended our FCRA license, one question kept coming back to me -- why is this government at war with Greenpeace India?
The government claims that we have prejudicially affected the economic interests of the state. In June 2014, an Intelligence Bureau report designated us as "anti-national" and held us accountable for stalling India's economic growth. Not only were we branded as an "anti-development organisation" but were also accused of pursuing a western agenda to slow down India's development story. As part of Greenpeace India and a citizen of this country, I strongly condemn the government's actions and beg to differ with its stance that we are working to stall the growth of our own country.
I know that self-praise is no recommendation, but I would like to reiterate our values and beliefs. I strongly feel that it's important to say state exactly why Greenpeace must exist.
Our success stories are freely available in the public sphere. In the past 10 years of Greenpeace India's existence, we have fought to save the pristine forests of India. A recent example is Mahan, home to Asia's oldest sal forest. We--along with the people of Mahan--have largely won in our fight to protect these precious trees. Despite getting the Stage II Forest clearance the Coal Ministry has decided not to auction Mahan. The decision was based on the recommendations of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), which said that Mahan forests fall in the inviolate category--they are a no-go zone. This is a clear validation of our work by the government.
"[H]ow is our agenda for India any different than the government's? Greenpeace's idea of development may be different, but can it really brand us as 'anti-people' and 'anti-development'? "
We run campaigns to make people aware of their rights, whether it is raising questions on health impacts and infrastructure in Delhi with regards to air pollution, or our solutions to empower the 300 million Indians who still live without basic amenities like electricity. So how is our agenda for India any different than the government's? Greenpeace's idea of development may be different, but can it really brand us as "anti-people" and "anti-development"?
We work for the people, and by the people. The increased encouragement by our supporters shows their confidence in us. Now the question remains--is Greenpeace merely blowing its own trumpet by sharing its success stories?
The answer is a resounding NO. The judiciary has also backed us, whether it's the January 20 judgment where the Delhi High Court directed the MHA to transfer blocked foreign funds to Greenpeace India's accounts and declared the government's actions as being "untenable". In March, Justice Rajiv Shakdher in fact said in his judgment on the Priya Pillai case:
"Amongst the varied freedoms conferred on an individual (i.e., the citizen), is the right of free speech and expression, which necessarily includes the right to criticise and dissent. Criticism, by an individual, may not be palatable; even so, it cannot be muzzled. Many civil right activists believe that they have the right, as citizens, to bring to the notice of the State the incongruity in the developmental policies of the State. The State may not accept the views of the civil right activists, but that by itself, cannot be a good enough reason to do away with dissent."
Does Greenpeace India need any more vindication?
This is not the first time, and I know that it isn't the last either. Our fight will continue. Because fighting for the environment is not a crime. #ISupportGreenpeace not because I work here but because I truly believe in dreaming differently and being different. I will continue to fight with courage, confidence and hope because as it was once said in Greenpeace: "When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money."
More power to us, to Greenpeace India!
Authored by: Madhulika Verma, Communication Specialist, Greenpeace India