Seems to be almost emergency-like situation: Vinuta/Greenpeace

Vinuta Gopal

Greenpeace India is not ready to buckle under pressure. It says it will fight the government in court and like twice this year, it will emerge victorious. I spoke to Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace Campaign Manager (Climate Change and Energy).

Excerpts

How do you see the latest government action?

This is a smear campaign. Government is attempting to clamp down on funding so that they can stop us from functioning. It also attempts to send a signal to civil society that the government is willing to go to any extent to tackle dissent. We believe that this is a pro-corporate, anti-people and an extremely worrying trend. The government is all-out using the FCRA as a tool of control.

Greenpeace faced several hurdles in past one year whether it is freezing of accounts or offloading of an activist from a London plane. It seems the Modi government has problems with Greenpeace and civil society at large.

It seems like the government is unwilling to allow diverse views to exist. You look at the list of bans in the recent times. In Priya Pillai’s case they overreacted and prevented her from travelling to London. However, the court has held it unconstitutional. It seems to be almost emergency-like situation.

How difficult is NGO activism these days?

I think the government is sending extremely strong messages that they will clamp down on dissent and it is certainly creating an atmosphere that existed possibly during Emergency. I think this also makes people come together. This government’s track record on land rights, farmers’ rights, the fact it is diluting environmental laws and diluting forest rights is going to give further impetus to people to come together and fight. For eg, we had our best fund raising, the maximum number of people who signed up for fund rising, was the month when the IB report was leaked. I think this is going to back fire on the government.

One of the main charges against is Greenpeace is that it uses foreign funds to fuel protests.

Organisations like us are raising issues that are important to Indians. The issues we are working on are issues that are important to Indians. For eg, how is it wrong to work for tribal rights? We were just trying to ensure that an existing law existing, which was being violated by corporations, is implemented.

It is alleged that there are discrepancies in your books.

We are extremely confident that when we take it to court and challenge them, we will be shown that we are right again.

What is your next course of action?

We have had a good track record so far. On two occasions (on Pillai’s case and freezing of accounts), the court held that Greenpeace is right and the action of Home Ministry is not just wrong but arbitrary and unconstitutional. We will certainly challenge the latest action in court. More importantly, 68 per cent of our funding comes from Indian donors. So our campaign will not stop. We will continue to work on the issue, which we are working already. The attempt by the government to muzzle us is only strengthening our resolve.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 11, 2015)

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