Sparking a debate on coal: Case study on the Indian Government’s crackdown on Greenpeace
Non-governmental organisations working on rights based issues in India have recently been in the firing line of the government. The controversial Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), originally instituted during national emergency in 1976, has been further amended in recent times to arbitrarily restrict groups speaking out against human rights abuses and environmental problems in a rapidly industrialising economy. Yet again raising the spectre of the ‘foreign hand’, governments have proceeded to cancel the licences and freeze the foreign funds of NGOs. Using the case study of the crackdown on Greenpeace on account of its advocacy against coal development, this paper discusses the main instruments, tactics and arguments engaged in stifling the capability of NGOs to protest rights violations across the landscape. It analyses Greenpeace’s fight-back and the broader civil society response to the government’s crackdown on dissent. In labelling civil society groups as anti-national in an era of neoliberal economic growth, the government’s corporate bias stands fully exposed. In standing thus exposed through its crackdown on dissent, the government’s crackdown contributed to the sparking of two much needed debates in Indian society: about who benefits and who misses out from India’s economic growth, and about the social and environmental costs of coal.
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