A British Greenpeace activist has been barred from entering India in what the group said is a coordinated crackdown on environmental campaigners by the government in Delhi.
Ben Hargreaves was reportedly on his way to a meeting in Delhi when he was turned away without explanation by immigration officials at Indira Gandhi International Airport last week.
Greenpeace officials confirmed that a British staff member had been refused entry to India despite having a valid business visa.
Mr Hargreaves is also said to be a frequent traveller to India.
“This looks like yet another incident of what has become a systematic clampdown by the government on Greenpeace and its staff,” said Samit Aich, executive director of Greenpeace India.
“But we are not deterred by such undemocratic acts… no act of intimidation will break our resolve to protect the environment.”
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, called the incident “unacceptable” and said it had asked the British government to raise the issue with the authorities in Delhi.
The incident follows moves by the newly-elected government of the development-driven Prime Minister Narendra Modi to place restrictions on the amount of foreign funds being transferred to Greenpeace India.
The restrictions were implemented in June after a report by the Indian Intelligence Bureau accused Greenpeace India of hindering development projects.
The report described Greenpeace as “a threat to national economic security” citing its protests against nuclear and coal power plants and funding of research that was “sympathetic” towards opponents of projects that would have an adverse impact on communities and the environment.
The report also estimated that the negative impact of Greenpeace’s work on GDP growth to be “2 – 3 percent per annum”.
The Intelligence Bureau further accused Greanpeace of helping conduct protests against nuclear power generation across India, organizing demonstrations to “take down India’s coal fired power stations” and preparing to take on the country’s vital IT services sector over the issue of “e-waste”.
Soon after the report was revealed, Greenpeace said its activities were meant to encourage the Indian government to use “innovative thinking and bold measures to take India away from dependence on dirty coal or dangerous nukes”.
“India surely needs to grow, but India also needs to play its part in keeping global temperatures from growing (more than) two degrees”, the organization added.
The business-friendly Mr Modi swept to power in a general election in May on the promise of kick-starting India’s stagnant economy.
A vital part of that pledge is to implement long-stalled power and infrastructure projects which had become bogged down awaiting environmental and other permits.
Big business has hailed Mr Modi’s ‘decisiveness’ in expediting clearances for projects.
The London-based billionaire Hinduja brothers, who are major investors in India, said in June: “With the Modi government there is leadership and what he has achieved in his short term in office is quite remarkable. He has taken bold steps to demolish committees and red tape.
“Our group had two or three big infrastructure projects which had been languishing for years because of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary clearances. In the first thirty days after Mr Modi’s appointment we had everything cleared.
“This administration has a very practical outlook, they are moving swiftly along and that’s what India needs.”