India cancels Greenpeace license, orders NGO to close within 30 days

© Manjunath Kiran
India has canceled Greenpeace International's license to operate and given the environmental organization 30 days to shut down, citing fraudulent dealings and falsification of data. Greenpeace says the move is an "assault on free speech."

The order was issued by authorities in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where Greenpeace is registered. The local government said it had found the organization had violated the law by engaging in fraudulent dealings.

A government official confirmed to Reuters that the order had been issued on Wednesday, but declined to provide further details.

But Greenpeace denies any wrongdoing, calling the move a “clumsy tactic” to silence dissent.

"This is an extension of the deep intolerance for differing viewpoints that sections of this government seem to harbor," Vinuta Gopal, the interim executive director of Greenpeace, said in a statement. It went on to call the move the “latest assault on free speech in India.”

Gopal said the order was made without granting Greenpeace a hearing and without complying with the Madras high court order to address each of Greenpeace's points and queries.

“This is a blatant attempt to circumvent the legal process and shows no respect for the law. We are confident that we are on strong legal ground. We have faith in the legal process and are confident of overcoming this order," he said.

Greenpeace is expected to challenge this order in the Madras High Court as soon as possible, according to sources cited by the Times of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has intensified the government's focus on foreign charities since taking office last year, accusing some of trying to hamper projects on social and environmental grounds. Last year, his government withdrew Greenpeace's ability to receive foreign funding, saying the money was being used to block industrial projects.

In recent months, the government has canceled the registration of nearly 9,000 groups for failing to declare details of overseas donations.

Greenpeace has campaigned against coal mines in forests, nuclear power, genetically modified crops, and toxic waste management in India.