For Immediate Release
Anindita Datta Choudhury, Communication Specialist, Greenpeace India, +91 9871515804, email@example.com
Avinash Chanchal, Communication Specialist, Greenpeace India, +91 8359826363, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jitendra Kumar, Communication Specialist, Greenpeace India, +91 9868167337, email@example.com
Indian NGOs urge government to end civil society clampdown
WASHINGTON - A wide coalition of non-governmental organisations has published an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing "deep concern" over the crackdown on civil society and the resulting "atmosphere of State coercion and intimidation".
Greenpeace India is one of almost 150 civil society groups that have endorsed the letter, which calls on Modi to protect civil society's "right to work and express our views". Greenpeace India recently announced it is facing shutdown within a month after the Home Ministry froze its domestic funds.
The coalition calls on Prime Minister Modi to put an end to coercive actions against NGOs and donors that are without reasonable cause or due process. They also urge the government to review all orders placing restraints on organisations and initiate an immediate dialogue between the NGO sector and the Government to address these concerns.
The letter states: "Mr. Prime Minister, this kind of coercive domestic environment being created under your watch does not augur well for the world's largest democracy that professes aspirations to being a global leader in promoting freedoms and democratic values ... An atmosphere of hostility against civil society actors in a democracy, and the uncertainty and insecurity created among communities across the country, can only be to the detriment of our society and the Government." 
Commenting on the initiative, Greenpeace India executive director Samit Aich said: "This is about much more than Greenpeace India alone. We're fighting for the future of civil society and free speech in the world's biggest democracy. We stand alongside all civil society organisations who want the best for India, even if that means sometimes disagreeing with the government."
In a separate development, Greenpeace India today submitted a comprehensive rebuttal to allegations from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) used as the basis for blocking access to the NGO's domestic bank accounts. 
"We are confident that this response establishes our legitimacy beyond any doubt," said Samit Aich. "The MHA's current attack simply does not stand up to scrutiny, and we are confident that expert analysis will support that claim. Let's be clear: this is not about spreadsheets and sums. It is a cynical attempt to shut Greenpeace down by a ministry that lacks the courage to come out and say so directly."
Following allegations over foreign funding, Greenpeace India has been the subject of a string of penalties imposed by the Home Ministry, including the blocking of international funding, all of which have been overturned by the Delhi High Court. In its latest move the Home Ministry froze the organisation's domestic bank accounts funded by donations from over 77,000 Indian citizens.
Domestic contributions represent 70 percent of Greenpeace India's funds and without access to these funds the NGO faces an imminent shutdown.
According to Greenpeace India, the allegations from the Home Ministry are riddled with clerical errors and unfounded accusations that undermine the ministry's position. Greenpeace also said the ministry has failed to respond to its own requests for documents and is ‘leaking misinformation to the media instead of abiding by the principles of natural justice'.
 Media briefing on Greenpeace India's response to MHA: http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/Press/Media-Briefing-Greenpeace-Indias-response-to-MHAs-show-cause-notice-of-9th-April-2015/
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