Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New York Times protests Modi government crackdown on Greenpeace as attempt to "silence citizens"

By Our Representative
The New York Times (NYT), one of the most influential American dailies, in a sharply-worded editorial, has taken strong exception of the Government of India's latest crackdown on Greenpeace, one of the world's most powerful environmental NGOs. Pointing out that the Narendra Modi government isn't the first to "conjure the threat of the meddling foreign hand", the NYT has noted, "His government has taken this to an alarming new level."
Calling it an effort to "silence citizens protesting development projects", the editorial, titled "The Right to Speak Out in India", says, the Union Home Ministry's decision to "temporarily suspended Greenpeace India’s registration as a group eligible to receive foreign funds" and freeze its bank accounts suggests that "the government’s problem with Greenpeace is its belief that it and foreign-financed civil society groups want to thwart the nation’s economic development."
Approvingly quoting Greenpeace India, which said in a statement recently that it "receives 70 percent of its support from donors in India", the NYT editorial recalls how the judiciary has "already stepped in twice to defend Greenpeace’s legitimate activities."
Thus, the daily says, in January, the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of its petition challenging the constitutional basis of a government order blocking Greenpeace India from receiving foreign money without the Home Ministry’s approval.
And, last month, the court found a government order preventing a Greenpeace India activist, Priya Pillai, from boarding a flight to London in January to brief British legislators about environmental havoc and human rights violations in India’s coal sector to be illegal.
Pointing out that "Justice Rajiv Shakdher reminded the government of what should have been obvious, 'You cannot muzzle dissent in a democracy', the NYT suspects major problems with environmental issues of the Modi government.
It says, "Increasing domestic coal production is a priority for Modi; cleaning it up is not. Since elections in May, the government has moved to dismantle procedures for citizens to voice opposition to mining and industrial operations."
"Fortunately", NYT says, "the judiciary has been willing to stand firm against such attempts to ride roughshod over the right to raise environmental and human rights issues". To prove its point, the NYT points to how, in an address on April 5 to judges of the Supreme Court and chief justices of high courts, Modi "accused" judges of fearing negative reactions from 'five-star activists', should they rule against them.
In an apparent reply to Modi, NYT says, "The chief justice of India, H.L. Dattu, told The Times of India, 'Judges today are as fearless as they ever were'.”

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