NEW DELHI: India has canceled a license allowing Greenpeace’s Indian arm to collect money from overseas, the organization and Indian media said Thursday, the latest in an ongoing battle between the environmental group and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
India’s government claims the NGO violated rules governing foreign funding and withheld information on transactions, and also accuses it of damaging the country’s economic interests by campaigning against mining and nuclear projects.
On Thursday, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported that the government had canceled the group’s foreign funding license, citing an unnamed official from the country’s home ministry.
PTI said the decision would be conveyed on Friday to the Delhi High Court, which is hearing a Greenpeace petition against the curbs.
In a statement, senior Greenpeace India official Vinuta Gopal said the move was “a desperate attempt to get us to cease our work.”
“The canceling of our… registration is the government’s latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community’s right to dissent,” Gopal said. “It is yet another attempt to silence campaigns for a more sustainable future and transparency in public processes.”
Modi’s government in April suspended the watchdog’s foreign funding license and froze its domestic bank accounts, which Greenpeace said could force it to shut down.
At the time, the government said it was acting on an audit, which showed the organization had violated rules on foreign funding and had not disclosed transaction information.
The following month, however, an Indian court unfroze Green-peace’s accounts.
Greenpeace, which has been at loggerheads with the government over claims of environmental damage caused by India’s heavy reliance on coal and the impact of deforestation and nuclear projects, accuses the government of waging a “malicious campaign” against it.
In addition to the financial curbs, authorities prevented one of its campaigners from leaving Delhi in January after she was placed on a suspicious persons list, and Greenpeace said in June that an Australian staff member was barred from entering the country despite holding a valid visa.
The latest decision marks another setback for foreign charities operating in India, after the country placed the US-based Ford Foundation and Christian charity Caritas on a watch list.
Modi’s nationalist government, in power since last year, has cancelled the foreign funding licenses of around 9,000 charities since a major crackdown began in April.
Greenpeace says almost 70 percent of its funding is generated locally and despite the restrictions, the watchdog has said it will continue most of its operations.
According to Indian media, a secret report by the main intelligence agency recently warned that delays to key development projects being sought by Greenpeace and other activist groups could knock up to three percentage points off India’s annual growth rate.