New Delhi: Delhi airport authorities barred a Greenpeace India member from boarding a flight to London on Sunday. Priya Pillai, who works as a senior campaigner with the international environmental group, says she had a valid business visa to the UK but the officials stamped ‘Offload’ on her passport.
“I was informed by the immigration bureau that I will not be allowed to travel because my name figures in a database of the government of India and people whose name figures in that database are not allowed to travel. No reason was given to me. I don’t know what that list is. I don’t know why the government is treating me like a fugitive as if I’m somebody who is running away from the country,” Ms Pillai told media.
She was scheduled by the British MPs to talk about her campaigning with local communities in Mahan in Madhya Pradesh, “where a proposed coal mining project threatens to uproot the lives and livelihoods of the forest and the community which lives there”, a statement by Greenpeace claimed. The Mahan coal block allocation was cancelled by a Supreme Court order.
Ms. Pillai, who has travelled abroad in the past, has accused the government of deliberately targeting her organisation. “The government of India doesn’t give space to dissent and ours is a voice of dissent,” she said adding, “It’s ironic that I was not allowed to travel on a day when world leaders are together in solidarity in Paris to support freedom of expression.”
Greenpeace India said that it has shot off a letter to Home Ministry, External Affairs Ministry as well as Airport Authority of India following this “arbitrary action” and has asked the government to explain the legal basis for the ban on Pillai leaving the country. A response from the government is awaited.
Last year, a British Greenpeace staff member, Ben Hargreaves, wasn’t allowed to enter India despite having a valid visa. Foreign funding to Greenpeace has been stopped and its accounts frozen after its name surfaced in a controversial Intelligence Bureau report last year that branded many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as anti-national. Greenpeace India has challenged this in the Delhi High Court and the next hearing is on January 20.