“This is nothing short of being arbitrary. I have no court order or criminal case against me. My visa is valid and no authority has given me anything in written to keep me from travelling. And yet, I have been told orally that I cannot travel to London because of orders from the Government of India”, said Priya Pillai when she spoke to TEHELKA.
In June 2014, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had filed a report to the Prime Minister’s Office claiming that Greenpeace along with several other NGO’s was a “threat to national economic security” as they had a negative impact on the country’s GDP growth. The report also accused Greenpeace of attempting to “change the dynamics of India’s energy mix”. Subsequently, in August 2014, the government of India had directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to slow its process of funding funding to Greenpeace International. In September 2014, an activist Ben Hargreaves with Greenpeace was offloaded from his flight to India in a similar fashion.
“Of course, this is an attempt to derail any effort made in the direction of sustaining environment. I was supposed to go to London to brief British Parliamentarians about a proposed mining operation led by Essar, a London-based company at Mahan village of Madhya Pradesh. Therefore, I was heading for my flight scheduled for London when immigration officials stopped me from boarding it. The mining operation at Mahan would lead to displacement and uprooting of several forest dwelling communities and create serious environmental problems. This was an attempt to curb us from our basic democratic rights and this will only make us more determined towards our goal. “, said an agitated Priya.
Local resistance led by Greenpeace has been active at Mahan ever since Mahan Coal Ltd (MCL) had received the final round of clearance from environment minister Veerapa Moily. In less than three months, the minister had sanctioned several big projects worth 40 billion dollars amidst much disapproval from environmentalists. Though the company had given an assurance of working upon 1% of the forest, local inhabitants believe that this assurance would only pave way to further encroachment of the forest.
“I think this method of targeting on a personal basis is uncalled for. Of course, the government has a right to investigate funding of NGO’s etcetera but this method of detaining is very personal. Also, I am in complete agreement with the movement that is happening at Mahan and I do believe that it must be given serious priority.”, says Mrs Tripath, a spokesperson of ‘’Diffuse Environmental Education Keeps Society Aware”(DEEKSHA) , a Delhi based research, consultancy and advocacy NGO with respect to environmental issues.
While Greenpeace Foundation has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs and External Affairs for an adequate explanation to the offloading of its employee, it seems that the union government is tightening strings around Non-governmental organizations (NGO) in a steady fashion.