Crackdown continues: Greenpeace India's registration cancelled

Continuing its crackdown on non-government organisations, the Narendra Modi government has cancelled the registration of Greenpeace India, five months after it suspended its licence to receive foreign donations.

The action was taken by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). It means that the well-known global NGO cannot receive any kind of foreign funds.

The NHA says Greenpeace's activities ''prejudicially affect public interest and economic interest of the state,'' which violates the conditions of grant of registration.

The order issued on 2 September comes after the NGO was given a 180-day notice to tender a reply to the MHA charges.

Vinuta Gopal, interim co-executive director of Greenpeace India, said the organisation will continue its work and also highlight the nationwide ''crackdown on civil liberties''.

Gopal on Thursday said the cancellation of the organisation's FCRA registration was the ''government's latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community's right to dissent''.

''It is yet another attempt to silence campaigns for a more sustainable future and transparency in public processes,'' she said.

On 10 April, the government had suspended Greenpeace India's licence to receive foreign donations, citing reasons such as ''talks'' with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), attempts to ''delay and place illegal obstructions to India's energy plans'', ''campaigning, protesting and lobbying against government of India's policies'', and an anti-nuclear ''full page colour advertisement in The Hindu with a sarcasm-laced header''.

In its report, the government also mentioned a campaign against an Indian tea brand, which Greenpeace claimed contained hazardous pesticides.

Though the MHA did not come up with an official circular saying the NGO's registration had been cancelled, it informed the Delhi High Court about the order in an affidavit filed on Thursday.

Greenpeace India had petitioned the High Court that an amount of Rs7 crore be unblocked by the government.

The court had on 27 May allowed Greenpeace to use two of its accounts for the purpose of receiving and utilising fresh domestic donations for its day-to-day functioning.

Gopal said the news of the cancellation comes just a day before a scheduled hearing at the Delhi High Court that was examining the merits of the MHA's 'arbitrary action'.

''Cutting access to our foreign funding may be a desperate attempt to get us to cease our work, but the MHA probably didn't count on our having an amazing network of volunteers and supporters who have helped us continue our work despite the government crackdown. Since the majority of our funding comes from Indian citizens, most of our work can indeed continue,'' she said.

"In fact, we are responding to this latest melodrama by launching a new creative online campaign and are confident that people will show they are ready to fight back in style, and send a clear message to those in power: you can't muzzle dissent in a democracy," the Greenpeace official said.

Greenpeace India has about 340 people working with it.

Hozefa Merchant, the Greenpeace campaigner, said the government action will not affect the organisation much financially as 70 per cent of funds are generated domestically.

Priya Pillai, the Greenpeace activist who was in January prevented from travelling to UK, said the government has been cracking down on the organization "vengefully", but they will not be deterred.

Pillai was offloaded from a London-bound flight by immigration officers in New Delhi airport in January to prevent her from travelling to UK where she was to address British parliamentarians. The Delhi High Court later overturned that action.

In the last one year, FCRA licenses of at least 11,000 NGOs were cancelled by the government for violating various provisions of FCRA.

In April, government ordered that funds coming from the US-based Ford Foundation should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from the Home Ministry.

A crisis response campaigner with Greenpeace International, Aaron Gray-Block, was denied entry into India. Three months ago as his name figured in a Home Ministry "black list".