Prime Minister Modi Assaults Greenpeace For Blocking India’s Growth

  • Date: 09/06/15
  • Robin Pagnamenta, The Times

India has deported a member of Greenpeace after denying him entry to the country despite his valid travel documents, in the latest sign of a government crackdown on the environmental organisation.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi cut off Greenpeace’s finances A.M. Ahad/AP

Aaron Gray-Block, an Australian who has campaigned against a plan to clear a forest and build a coalmine in Mahan, central India, was stopped by officials at Delhi airport while on his way to meetings with Indian colleagues.

His passport was seized and he was placed on a flight to Kuala Lumpur without explanation, according to Divya Raghunandan, the programme director of Greenpeace India. The passport was returned only after he landed in Malaysia.

Ms Raghunandan said that the deportation of Mr Gray-Block, who had a valid business visa, was “absolutely disturbing” and part of a pattern of state harassment of the environmental group, which is fighting several government-backed development projects.

“It’s part of a multipronged attack which seems to be an attempt to shut the organisation down,” she said.

In April, the government of Narendra Modi, a rightwinger who has criticised what he calls “five-star activists”, withdrew Greenpeace’s foreign funding licence, crippling its finances. Last month a court partially reversed the order, enabling Greenpeace to unfreeze some of its bank accounts. The group is also battling a state-backed legal effort to strip it of its charitable status.

Last year Mr Gray-Block used a Greenpeace blog to publicly accuse Indian officials of using “intimidation tactics”, including arbitrary arrests, to stamp out unrest over plans by Essar, one of India’s biggest industrial groups, to cut down an ancient forest in Mahan and build a large coalmine.

A spokesman for India’s home ministry said that officials were examining reports of his deportation. Greenpeace is one of several civil organisations to have been targeted in a crackdown on “foreign-backed” organisations viewed as opposed to Mr Modi’s plans to accelerate economic growth through mining, power and other industrial projects.

In January, an Indian employee of Greenpeace was barred from boarding a flight to London to address British MPs about the Mahan coal project, which Greenpeace claims will destroy wildlife and the habitat of tribal communities.

A report from India’s secret service the Intelligence Bureau, leaked to the media shortly after the election of Mr Modi last year, claimed that delays to big development projects caused by Greenpeace and other organisations had knocked 2 to 3 per cent off India’s annual rate of economic growth. It described Greenpeace as a “threat to national economic security . . . actively aided and led by foreign activists visiting India”.

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