By Gaurav Sharma
The government of India has been locked in an intense battle with the international global campaigning organization Greenpeace for quite some time now.
A back and forth game of charges and counter-charges for one-upmanship has erupted ever since Greenpeace India became vocal against a corporate culture hell bent on profit maximization and a government striving actively for rapid development to augment India’s growth rate.
Greenpeace’s India-centered activism has been extensive and comprehensive in covering a wide array of areas, particularly the tea industry and the coal sector.
Responding rather strongly to Greenpeace’s “anti-development” rhetoric, the BJP-led NDA government has frozen all its accounts and even suspended the FCRA registration of Greenpeace on charges of “anti-nationalism”.
While such notions of “anti-India” and “anti-economic progress” are based on a report by the Intelligence Bureau, but the report cannot be taken at face value. Such claims of acting against public interest have been quashed by the judiciary twice.
The IB has itself been counter charged of being “anti-national” by activists such as Aruna Rodrigues, Kavita Kuruganti and Vandana Shiva. They have termed previous IB reports on Genetically Modified (GM) crops as “hypocritical”.
Amnesty International India has also dismissed the abrasive seizure of funds and revocation of license as violating the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association.
Meanwhile,Greenpeace has been hurling out slogans of vehement and indiscriminate development against the government. It has even gone to the extent of accusing the government of engaging in crony capitalism.
Amidst all the muddle, Greenpeace itself cannot be looked upon as a holy cow. Its claim of receiving close to 70 per cent funding from ordinary Indians cannot be corroborated convincingly.
Greenpeace has its fair share of critics and detractors. In the past, it has been accused of being “anti-technology” for its staunch opposition to research on nuclear fusion.
Greenlanders have vented their ire against Greenpeace for stalling sealskin trade, in which generations of Greenlanders were engaged.
More recently, Greenpeace came under fire for staging a publicity stunt within the Nazca lines, a UN World Heritage site in Peru. It reportedly damaged both the line and the area surrounding it.
Such incidents cast a dubious shadow on the reputation of the organization. By corollary, claims of involvement of the United Kingdom in Greenpeace India operations by the Indian government cannot be dismissed entirely.
However, by arbitrarily preventing Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from boarding an aircraft, India has managed to showcase its inflexibility in accommodating varied viewpoints.
With the Delhi High Court rubbishing the government’s act as illogical and an infringement on the individual’s right to travel, the current political dispensation has been denuded and typecast as being rather radical.
At a time when Prime Minister Modi is busy making visits to other countries to attract investments, India can ill-afford to hurt its image as a free-flowing democratic country. It will be highly absurd to expect foreign investors to invest in a country labeled as illiberal by the international media.
Should then Greenpeace be subject to such a stringent crackdown because it professes and expounds a sustainable development philosophy?
Mature democracies have space for an eclectic mix of ideas, multifarious modes of working and dissent within the ambit of certain rules and regulations.
Are we such a democracy?
By straight-jacketing the activities of International NGO’s under the pretext of “anti-India” pursuits, India is distorting its image as a free-market economy.
Such overt blackmailing only serves to impede the Indian growth story for which PM Modi was handed down such a massive mandate.