Greenpeace is back in the news. Not because its members have once again dressed up as orangutans or scaled skyscrapers in protest of some impending environmental disaster. This time it’s Greenpeace’s allegedly unfair treatment at the hands of the Indian government that has hit headlines.
Last week, Greenpeace activist and Australian national Aaron Gray-Block was denied entry into India by immigration officials in New Delhi, who were acting on a directive issued by the Indian government. This wasn’t the first time that the government has attempted to scupper Greenpeace’s activities. Last year, British Greenpeace activist Ben Hargreaves was also denied entry. Meanwhile, Greenpeace India staffer Priya Pillai was prevented from travelling to the UK earlier this year, where she was set to talk to British MPs about the environmental harm presented by coal mines in India.
Greenpeace is expressing outrage at the clampdown, crying that the Indian government’s actions are an affront to freedom and democracy. But, while it is fair to suggest that the Indian government is suppressing Greenpeace’s activities in India, it is hard not to sympathise with its attitude towards Greenpeace and its ilk. Besides, cries of censorship and undemocratic behaviour are rather rich coming from an organisation that rejects democratic debate, is not representative of any electorate and would rather appeal to the British state to help curb India’s coal-mining activities than attempt to win support from the Indian masses for its cause.
India’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, headed by prime minister Narendra Modi, has frozen the bank accounts of Greenpeace India and stopped the inflow of foreign funds. It is also contemplating revoking Greenpeace’s charity status. The government, which won an overwhelming parliamentary majority in last year’s election, on a manifesto committed to economic growth and development, is accusing Greenpeace of undermining India’s economic progress by stalling mining, GM and energy projects.
This is not an unfair accusation, and India is not alone in its distaste for Greenpeace and its high-profile antics. Russia arrested and imprisoned 30 Greenpeace activists for preventing oil drilling in Arctic waters. New Zealand decided to revoke the charity status of Greenpeace because its activists routinely trespassed on private property. In the past few years, Indonesia has also detained, deported or simply refused entry to numerous Greenpeace activists who were campaigning against its palm-oil industry, including Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven.