Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai, who was prevented from flying to London on the basis of a look-out circular (LOC), on Monday demanded reasons for turning her away from the airport, alleging that she was “off-loaded” for fighting for tribals in Madhya Pradesh rather than an FIR registered in Mumbai.
Pillai was on her way to London to campaign with British MPs for the rights of tribals affected by the proposed Mahan coal mining project in Madhya Pradesh. Home ministry officials had, on Sunday, attributed the decision to bar her from leaving the country to a look-out circular issued against her for a FIR registered against her in Mumbai last year.
Pillai insisted that at least three other Greenpeace campaigners named in the same FIR had travelled abroad a few months ago, adding that the court — which released her on bail after her arrest for protesting in Mumbai on January 22 last year — had not imposed any travel restrictions.
Home secretary Anil Goswami has called for a report on the incident. The home ministry spokesperson evaded queries on reasons why the campaigner was treated like a criminal. A government source, however, suggested the home ministry had clearly gone overboard. In a judgment that frowned at LOC being used to harass the petitioners, the Delhi high court held in 2010 that the LOC was only “a coercive measure to make a person surrender to the investigating agency or court of law”.
“The police hadn’t even filed a chargesheet against me... There is no question of evading the courts or police,” Pillai said.
Incidentally, the home ministry had set out to curb the misuse of LOCs in 2000 when it provided for automatic deletion of the circulars after one year and refused to process requests not signed by the district police chief or a deputy secretary-level official at the Centre.
Central agencies had started targeting Greenpeace in early 2012, around the same time that former PM Manmohan Singh first blamed foreign powers of stalling India’s development through civil society groups.
In June last year, the Modi government blocked the group from receiving foreign funds on the basis of a hurriedly-drafted IB report that called Greenpeace “a threat” to national economic security.
Video:Greenpeace activist says it's a 'bullying tactic'