Last week, Greenpeace India said it had received a notice from the Tamil Nadu Registrar of Societies directing its executive board to pass a special resolution and dissolve itself within one month of the order. The NGO had claimed that the Union home ministry was behind the move and called it "the latest assault on free speech in India" and a demonstration of the government's "intolerance for dissent".
In a statement issued on Saturday signed by members of the NGO's board, Greenpeace India said that it had conducted a detailed review of the order and found that it contained several inaccurate and baseless accusations. It said that the NGO remained committed to upholding its right to dissent and would not be silenced.
The order cancelling Greenpeace India's registration as a society came two months after the central government had cancelled the registration of environmental organisation under the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act, thereby barring it from receiving funds from abroad. The government had claimed that the organisation's activities had hampered the country's economic growth.
Here is the full text of the statement issued by Greenpeace India on Saturday:
We, the Members of the Greenpeace India Executive Committee, are issuing the following statement today, the 13th of November 2015:
We speak in the context of a steadily worsening ecological and human rights situation in India in which civil society bears the crucial responsibility and role of exposing what is happening, and suggesting corrective policies and measures.
Greenpeace India has had the most serious threat yet to its continued existence in India. This year we have withstood repeated assaults on our right to campaign on environmental and social justice issues in India. On the 6th of November, Greenpeace India Society received notice from the Registrar of Societies (RoS), summarily announcing cancellation of its registration as a society. The Executive Board of Greenpeace India Society was “directed to pass a special resolution and dissolve itself” within one month of the order.
We believe this order is completely unjustified, especially, as we have complied with the law to the fullest. After a detailed review, we are convinced that the order contains several inaccurate and baseless allegations. For instance, we have been accused of not submitting a detailed response to their earlier notice (the show cause notice dated 16th of June), when we actually have copies of receipts stamped in acknowledgement of our response dated October 5th. Most seriously, we found that it had failed to comply with the order from the Madras High Court dated August 4th.
For over a year now, the courts have upheld Greenpeace India’s right to exist despite attempts by a variety of government authorities seeking to silence our voice. In all the cases where we have approached the courts so far, we have had favourable verdicts upholding our freedom of speech and right to dissent. We have therefore agreed unanimously to direct the organisation to take all necessary steps to appeal this order.
In the current climate, where a singular and flawed vision of development is being pushed through at all costs, Greenpeace has not only an urgent need to continue its campaigning, but a moral imperative to do so as well, as do other civil society organisations.
Speaking as we do in defence of this country’s environment, our campaigns have raised important questions about the costs of development projects being pushed ahead. These include large-scale environmental damage, displacement of people, and grabbing of land, forests and water from farmers and adivasis. We believe strongly that asking such questions is a necessary part of a healthy democratic debate around what kind of development India wants to pursue, and at what cost.
Towards this end Greenpeace India is happy to have also contributed viable alternative solutions, especially those benefitting the poor, such the solar micro grid powering Dharnai, a village in Bihar. We are proud of the many achievements of Greenpeace India in defense of this country’s ecological and environmental wealth, and the rights of communities dependent on natural resources. We are determined to continue our campaigns: for clean air, safe food and clean energy.
These repeated attempts to muzzle Greenpeace only show the government’s unwillingness to engage in a healthy democratic dialogue. We remain committed to upholding our right to dissent. Greenpeace cannot – and will not – be silenced in this way.
In conclusion, we’d just like to say that as the Board, we have performed due diligence and are confident that Greenpeace India has acted as per the laws of this land, in letter and spirit, and will continue to work to protect the interests of India’s future.
Signed by Members of the Board:
Ashish Kothari - Chair of the Board and member of Kalpavriksh, Pune, Author
Amala Akkineni - Actor and founder of Blue Cross of Hyderabad
G. Gautama - Director of Palar Centre for Learning (KFI)
Dr. Biswajit Mohanty - Chartered Accountant and former member of National Board for Wildlife
Tara Murali - Architect and Trustee, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, Chennai
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta - Senior Journalist, Author
Dr. Harish Hande - CEO of SELCO Foundation
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