Greenpeace activist barred from UK visit

Greenpeace activist barred from UK visit

Pillai was to talk on how mining in MP threatens the rights of forest dwellers

Greenpeace activist barred from UK visit

Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai was on Sunday denied permission to fly to London, where she was scheduled to address British parliamentarians on the violation of the rights of forest communities in central India due to coal mining.

Despite having a valid passport and visa, Pillai was not permitted by the immigration officials to board the 6:15 am Indian Airlines flight to the British capital, without offering a reason.

The officials informed her that she is banned from leaving India though there are no criminal convictions against her.

Her passport was stamped with the word: Offload. “They (immigration officials) told the airlines (Indian Airlines) to remove my baggage and told me that I cannot board as my name figures in a government database. They did not tell me what the database is and did not give me anything in writing,” Pillai told Deccan Herald.

Greenpeace, an internationally known non-governmental organisation, shot offletters to the Union Ministry of Home and External Affairs and the Airport Authority of India seeking to know the reason why Pillai was prevented from leaving. There was no response from the government so far.

Pillai has been invited by the British MPs to talk about her campaign with the local communities in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh, where a proposed coal mining project led by Essar, a London-based company, threatens to uproot the lives and livelihoods of the forest and the community which lives there.

The talk is slated on January 14. “I am shocked and saddened that the government has managed yet again to run roughshod over people working to protect democratic rights in the country,” Pillai said in a statement.

Asserting that she represented the forest community members of Mahan, the Delhi-based activist said, “I was scheduled to tell their story on how the Indian government and Essar, a foreign registered billionaire corporation, are trampling their rights and existence that have been guaranteed by none other than the constitution of India.”

Allocation of Mahan coal block in Singrauli Madhya Pradesh to Essar and Hindalco in 2006 is one of the controversial decisions in the coal scam case, which is being heard by the Supreme Court. Activists alleged that more than 50,000 people from 54 villages are being removed from the Mahan region.

This is the second time a Greenpeace employee encountered problems. In September, 2014, Greenpeace campaigner, Ben Hargreaves – a UK national - was refused entry to India, despite having a valid visa.
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