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London’s Science Museum protests against Adani Group

Adani Group and greenwashing genocide: The Israeli weapons manufacturer sponsoring London Science Museum's green gallery
Activists have been demonstrating outside London's Science Museum urging it to drop its sponsor Adani Group, which has ties to Israeli weapons manufacturing.

On March 25, London's Science Museum opened its Green Energy gallery, following a major protest the previous Saturday by climate justice, the South Asian diaspora and Palestinian organisations.

The gallery is sponsored by Adani Green Energy, a company owned by Indian billionaire businessman Gautam Adani’s self-named conglomerate, the Adani Group.

The ultimate exercise in greenwashing, the Green Energy gallery sits at the intersection of multiple interrelated issues — the overarching question of corporate sponsorship of cultural institutions, and the specific context of the Adani Group’s track record.

Adani’s sponsorship of the Science Museum is not a new development.

The deal was first announced in 2021, and UK climate activists — led by organisations including Extinction Rebellion and Culture Unstained — have consistently been campaigning both against the Adani sponsorship and against the museum’s other sponsorship deals with oil giants including Shell, BP and Equinor.

But Adani’s long-standing connections with the far-right regimes of India and Israel set this sponsorship apart.

Demonstrators inside the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, in protest against the sponsorship of the museum's 'Energy Revolution' gallery by coal giant Adani 

Much of the discourse among climate activists concerning Adani has centred on the displacement of Adivasi (indigenous) communities and local wildlife through coal mining across large parts of India, as well as the notorious Adani mine in Queensland, Australia.

However, Adani and his billions have also bankrolled Narendra Modi’s far-right Hindu supremacist Indian government and been involved in the production of weapons used by the Israeli military in their ongoing onslaught against the people of Gaza, having announced a joint weapons manufacturing venture with Israel Weapon Industries back in 2018.

Adani Green Energy also has a presence in Sri Lanka, with a new wind power project in the town of Mannar announced in March, posing serious threats to local people’s lands and livelihoods as well as to the lives of millions of migratory birds in the region.

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A 20-year alliance

As is often the case, Adani’s environmental destruction is bound up with his political alliances, representing his impunity as far as the Modi government is concerned.

The government reportedly allowed the Adani Group to clear about 3,000 acres of Adivasi land in the Hasdeo Arand forest in Chattisgarh during the expansion of its mine in this area, defying recommendations from the Wildlife Institute.

In October 2021, hundreds of villagers from the area walked 300km over 10 days to Chattisgarh’s capital to demand the cancellation of all coal mining projects in the Hasdeo Arand forest, and have continued to protest at every turn.

In exchange for such free passes offered to Adani by the Modi government, Adani has played a major role in funding said central government since Modi first came to power in 2014, including through electoral bonds, which have become a highly contentious aspect of the upcoming Indian general election.

The alliance between Adani and Modi in fact extends back to 2002, when Modi was Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat (the same year in which he oversaw an anti-Muslim pogrom in the state).

Fast forward to February 2023, when Adani’s conglomerate the Adani Group went bankrupt after being accused of accounting fraud and stock manipulation — and the company’s relationship with the Modi government has remained as strong as ever, with Adani currently India’s largest ports operator.

The fact that the same company which has bankrolled the Modi government for the past decade is sponsoring the Science Museum’s Green Energy gallery seems to sum up the heights of greenwashing the world has reached in the 2020s.

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Institutional hypocrisy

Indeed, the Adani Green Energy gallery, and the Adani company’s sponsorship of the Science Museum more widely, speak to the bleak state of the cultural sector under late stage neoliberal capitalism, when institutions such as the Science Museum are funded by corporate sponsorship and led by wealthy, equally power-hungry allies of these corporates.

Sir Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group, was so eager to maintain the museum’s relationship with Adani that he pushed through with the sponsorship deal despite the museum’s own damning due diligence report on the billionaire businessman released back in 2020.

Whilst Blatchford previously returned an award from Russian president Vladimir Putin following the escalation of Russia’s war with Ukraine in 2022, he has unsurprisingly made no such retractment of the museum’s Adani sponsorship since the genocide in Gaza began, despite evidence of Adani’s involvement in the manufacturing of weapons used by Israel against the people of Gaza.

The Adani sponsorship thus speaks to a wider hypocrisy around boycotts and sanctions, whereby the UK establishment will easily impose sanctions on Russia but has attempted to outlaw the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel.

A children’s museum?

The protest on March 23 was largely climate-focused, with a banner dropped from a balcony reading ‘Stop the Harm’ — a widely used slogan against climate destruction.

Cut-out birds and animals were hung from strings, symbolising the damage to local wildlife in the areas of Adivasi land taken over by the Adani company’s mining projects.

However, Adani’s connections to the Hindu right and Israel’s genocide in Gaza, as well as Adani’s aforementioned role in Sri Lanka, were also emphasised by speakers.

Chants such as ‘Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Israel is a Terrorist State’ — a slogan synonymous with the mass protests against Israel’s genocide over the past six months — carried through the museum’s large airy indoors, grounding the event firmly within the ongoing resistance in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

As part of the protest, activists highlighted the close alliances between Adani, Modi, Blatchford, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — four men driven by profit who are bankrolling and benefiting from genocide.

Protesters from the South Asian diaspora organisation, South Asia Solidarity Group, stood together wearing masks depicting these men to underline these alliances and the metaphorical presence of these figures in the museum’s activities.

South Asia Solidarity Group protesters wear masks depicting Blatchford, Modi, Adani and Netanyahu

Standing in the middle of the museum, I was reminded of my first visit there — a school trip at the age of 12.

This was, and still is, primarily a space for children to learn about science. On the day of the protest, many of the regular visitors not participating in the protest were parents and children.

Whilst many took leaflets and were curious — including two security guards who picked up the leaflets after I left them outside the museum — and the protest itself was large enough to dominate the museum, some visitors remained unreceptive.

Watching these parents walk past with young children, refusing to engage, the bleak ironies of a museum largely enjoyed by children being sponsored by a company effectively funding a genocide in which over 13,000 children have been killed thus far were not lost on me.

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What next?

The choice of the Science Museum to unveil the Adani-sponsored Green Energy gallery at this point is particularly stark.

We are half a year into the genocide in Gaza, with over 33,000 people killed. Meanwhile, the first phase of India’s upcoming general election started on April 19, in which Modi and the BJP — Israel’s firm allies — are likely set to retain power.

The UK establishment is as complicit in the genocide as ever, with foreign secretary David Cameron this week refusing to suspend arms sales to Israel.

The connections between all these issues have been buried in the Science Museum’s greenwashing project, and protests must urgently keep reiterating them.

In the wake of the opening, the Science Museum is continuing to maximise its greenwashing through the Adani Green Energy gallery.

On April 2, an advertisement appeared in the Indian newspaper The Hindu promoting the gallery as ‘the Science Museum’s Energy Revolution’.

The fact that a gallery at a London-based institution was being marketed to Indian audiences as revolutionary, weeks before the Indian general election, demonstrates a disturbing attempt on behalf of the Indian establishment — including the Modi government and the Adani company — to appeal to the Indian electorate.

Modi and Adani are expanding their greenwashing internationally, and urging voters at home in India to take heed.

With the current levels of global climate destruction, such corporate greenwashing has never been more dangerous.

Activists must continue to emphasise Adani’s role in funding the Israeli genocide in Gaza and his close relationship with the Modi government in India.

Protests at the Science Museum are only getting bigger and more impactful.

On April 13, activists occupied the Green Energy gallery, following which the museum closed the gallery to the public.

But the protesters will not be silenced.

Their message is simple: people will not allow a cultural institution aimed at educating and entertaining children to take sponsorship from a company bankrolling fascism and genocide.

Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya is a writer, activist and co-editor of Red Pepper magazine, interested in arts and culture and social movements.

Follow her on Twitter: @AnanyaWilson