Alliance of 400 bodies asks Centre to refrain from using 'coercive methods' to silence NGOs

New Delhi: An alliance of 400 organisations working to promote sustainable agriculture on Thursday said it stood in solidarity with Greenpeace India after its office was raided and bank accounts frozen by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) recently, and asked the Centre to refrain from using "coercive methods" to silence NGOs.

The Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) said the freezing of accounts is part of a "broader pattern of intimidation" of organisations and individuals that are raising difficult questions for the government.

It also asked the Centre and its agencies to understand that Greenpeace and several such bodies are essentially acting as a medium for thousands to contribute to conserving the environment and such work is an essential part of nation-building and public service.

 Alliance of 400 bodies asks Centre to refrain from using coercive methods to silence NGOs

Representational image. Agencies

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has frozen over a dozen bank accounts of environmental NGO Greenpeace and a linked entity after conducting searches at their premises in Bengaluru on charges of alleged forex violations recently.

After the raids, Greenpeace India had strongly denied all allegations and said that the ED action was "part of a larger design to muzzle democratic dissent in the country".

The ASHA said the duty of the government is to engage with the dissenting voices, even those which are highly critical of the very development model being pursued by the government, rather than trying to shut down such organisations.

"ASHA stands by Greenpeace India at this critical time, and demands that the government refrain from using coercive methods and heavy-handed force to silence such organisations," it said in a statement.

Official sources in the central probe agency had said the searches, under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), were conducted on 5 October in Bengaluru as it was detected that it incorporated a commercial entity called DDIIPL in 2016 after the Union Home Ministry cancelled Greenpeace India Society's (Chennai) FCRA registration the previous year for alleged violation of norms.

The ASHA said it expresses its alarm at these developments, and stood in solidarity with Greenpeace India as the government makes repeated attempts to go after an organisation that is playing a crucial positive role on environmental issues such as climate change, air pollution, forests and sustainable agriculture among others.

"We are very concerned that the raids on Greenpeace and freezing of accounts are part of a broader pattern of intimidation of organisations and individuals that are raising difficult questions for the government," ASHA said.

The ASHA places great value on the work of Greenpeace India and its approach of taking up challenging, emerging issues related to environmental justice even when the situation requires confronting government policies and actions, it said.

"Furthermore, Greenpeace India has been playing a valuable role in raising awareness among citizens about these issues and rallying the support of lakhs of people who express solidarity or make donations for work on such causes.

"In India, Greenpeace India has been able to establish sustainable farming and renewable energy solutions convincingly, which governments have picked up for scaling up. Globally, Greenpeace's contribution to numerous international environmental frameworks is well known, and India has been a signatory to such international agreements," it added.

Updated Date: Oct 18, 2018 21:44:43 IST