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Greenpeace India has worked extensively with the the forest community of Mahan to save the lands on which their livelihoods depend. (Photo: Sudhanshu Malhotra/ Greenpeace India)

Facing Government Crackdown, Greenpeace India 'Refuses to be Intimidated'

NGO head suggests surprise investigation signals 'bureaucrats in Delhi are searching desperately for new ways to shut us down'

Deirdre Fulton

Greenpeace India, which has been fighting for its life in the face of a government suppression, said on Wednesday that its office in the eastern city of Chennai had been inspected—with little notice—by government authorities.

The Times of India reports that the investigators "refused to submit their request in writing, but verbally confirmed that they were looking into the organization's society status—the legal basis on which Greenpeace operates in India. The investigation is ongoing."

The non-governmental organization (NGO) suggested the surprise inspection came in response to Greenpeace India's resilience in the face of ongoing government hostility.

"Greenpeace India has turned out to be stronger than the [Indian Ministry of Home Affairs] expected," program director Divya Raghunandan said. "As a result, the bureaucrats in Delhi are searching desperately for new ways to shut us down. We refuse to be intimidated, and we will cooperate fully with this investigation, as we have done throughout."

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Greenpeace India also revealed that it has been summoned to a tax hearing on June 12, for which its accountants have been told to prepare for a large tax bill—an amount representing most of Greenpeace India's operational budget for the next few months.

The Indian government had previously frozen the bank accounts Greenpeace India uses for receiving foreign funds, as well as certain domestic accounts. This funding crackdown at one point cast doubt on the organization's future in the country. However, the Delhi High Court has ordered the government to unfreeze two of the charity’s domestic bank accounts, a move the NGO described as "a lifeline." Other bank accounts used to receive and distribute foreign donations remain frozen.

In an email beseeching supporters to call on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to "support free speech in India," the organization outlined some of its achievements in the country:

  • We worked with the forest community of Mahan to save the lands on which their livelihoods depend. Small communities that might otherwise not be heard worked together to take on the might of giant coal companies — and won.
  • Together with the people of Dharnai, we’ve shown the possibilities of solar energy in India. A whole village now has electricity for the first time — clean, renewable electricity.
  • And after a Greenpeace India investigations showed unsafe pesticides in tea, four major Indian tea producers agreed to phase out their use.
"This week our society status is under investigation, next week we will face a huge tax bill," said Raghunandan. "The pattern here is so obvious it is frankly embarrassing for the government. It is using the bureaucracy to strangle us because of our successful campaigns, to protect our forests from mining especially those that call for cleaner air in our cities and greater transparency from coal companies."

Raghunandan concluded: "Our response to this is simple. We will continue to campaign against air pollution and for a cleaner environment for all Indians. These arbitrary attacks have only made us more determined to win our campaigns."

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