Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai addressed British lawmakers via Skype on the rights of forest communities affected by coal mining in India on Wednesday, days after the government prevented her from boarding a flight to London where she was scheduled to speak to the MPs in person.
She urged the MPs to exercise their influence over the London-listed company Essar Energy to stop “the environmental and human rights violation going on in Madhya Pradesh’s Mahan”. Mahan refers to a proposed coal mining project in the state.
On January 11, Pillai was offloaded from her London flight at the Delhi airport. It emerged later that the decision was made on the basis of a look out circular (LOC) issued by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) on January 9.
In a statement, Greenpeace said that through her address, Pillai had stuck to her commitment of taking the voices of struggle from Mahan to a global stage even after the Indian government had tried to halt her speech.
In her speech, Pillai told MPs that Mahan is among the “last remaining Sal forests of Singrauli district, which should not be sacrificed for coal worth 14 years”.
Pillai was invited to speak by the British Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APGG).
Apart from Pillai, villagers from Mahan, who were also planning to go for the event were pulled up and interrogated by the state police, the Greenpeace statement alleged. “We want to show the whole world whose development this project is going to serve. For us the forest of Mahan is our provider, protector and God and we will not allow it to be destroyed…” said Anita Kushwaha, a resident of Mahan forest.
Commenting on the government’s failure to justify her offloading Pillai said: “… each concerned ministry has fallen short of answers to suitably justify the law, under which they have banned me. When will someone in the government stand up, take responsibility and say, ‘I ordered this.’?”