11/11/2015 03:00 GMT | Updated 10/11/2016 05:12 GMT

Narendra Modi, Cease Your Administration's Unlawful and Unjustified Attack on Civil Society Organisations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi,

We are writing to draw your attention to the continued harassment of civil society organisations, including Greenpeace, by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs. Just last week, Greenpeace India has had its legal registration cancelled, the latest and most serious in a long string of attempts by the home ministry to shut down the organisation.

The string of unjustified attacks against Greenpeace and other civil society groups is not just challenging the right to free speech, but is also feeding into a growing climate of intolerance that is damaging India's image abroad at a critical time.

One of your key election promises was to make India a more attractive place for international businesses to invest in and give the country the global standing it deserves. Both of these goals will become much harder to achieve if India's image as a vibrant, open and pluralist democracy is tarnished by the campaign against dissenting voices.

The home ministry's relentless attempt to silence groups expressing concerns about the environmental and social impacts of certain policies shows intolerance for those with differing views. The crucial question of what constitutes true development, and of how that development is to be achieved to bring the greatest benefit to the largest number, is one that must be vigorously debated. The crackdown on NGOs in India is stifling that debate.

It's also becoming a major international embarrassment for the Indian government. Over the last 18 months, a growing chorus of influential voices including Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma and renowned artist Anish Kapoor, as well as dozens of other high-profile academics, writers and intellectuals, have expressed concerns at the government clampdown on free speech. Even financial service giant Moody's has intervened in the debate warning that the controversy could damage India's credibility in the eyes of potential investors.

As you embark on a series of high-profile international engagements including your first UK visit, the G20 meeting in Turkey and the Paris climate talks, this controversy back home will only weaken India's clout on the international stage.

India can and should play a crucial international role, especially as a climate advocate for developing countries. Greenpeace has already welcomed your government's focus on the potential renewable energy has to bring electricity to communities currently without it. Whilst the UK government is moving in the wrong direction by reducing support to the solar sector, India is making it clear to the world that solar will play a significant role in meeting the country's energy needs. This is why Greenpeace fully endorses the Indian government's ambitious targets for 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. These targets are a true demonstration of global leadership. The crackdown on free speech and civil society is not.

For these reasons we ask that you direct the Ministry of Home Affairs to cease its unlawful and unjustified attack on civil society. At a time when we need to focus on the urgent environmental and social challenges facing us all, these actions will only serve to muffle India's voice in this crucial debate, whilst also damaging its economic prospects.


John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK

Vinuta Gopal, Executive Director, Greenpeace India