Pillai can fly only if she doesn't 'embarrass India': Govt's shocking stand on Greenpeace activist

The Union government on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that they will withdraw the Look Out Circular issued against Greenpeace India activist Priya Pillai only if she gives an undertaking that she won't depose before the UK parliamentary committee on violations in the country.

"The government of India asked us to give an undertaking in written that we will not talk about violations -- environmental, human right or tribal. And if we give them this in writing they will allow me to travel and leave the country," Pillai was quoted by ANI as saying.

 Pillai can fly only if she doesnt embarrass India: Govts shocking stand on Greenpeace activist

Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai. Agencies

The activist further added, "We have ample evidence, it's not like we are talking baselessly and ridiculously, why should we stop talking about violations? I refuse to be gagged. This is totally unacceptable. As a citizen of this country, I have the right to express my opinion peacefully," she told the news agency.

Indira Jaising, senior advocate, who represented Priya in the court said, “I am appalled that the interest of the government of the day are conflated with the interests of the nation. I consider it a denial of a basic right to freedom of speech. I will never advice my client to agree to ASG’s suggestion that if she signs and submits an undertaking that she will not go and make such submissions she is free to travel. It is not censorship, its pre- censorship,” a press release issued by Greenpeace said.

On 6 February, the court had expressed concern over Pillai not being allowed to visit London and said the government has to draw a line between "nationalism and jingoism".

37-year-old Pillai in her petition has challenged her 'offloading' and the 'Look Out Circular' issued on her, which had resulted in the stamping of 'offload' on her passport by immigration officials.

The court hearing continues on Thursday.

This statement comes a few days after reports claimed that the government was all set to remove Priya from no-fly list.

On Tuesday, the Centre told the Delhi High Court that Pillai was offloaded from her flight to London as her proposed 'testimony' before a British parliamentary committee would have been 'prejudicial' to India's interests.

In its affidavit, the ministry has also said that creation of a 'false image' of India's efforts to protect tribal rights could also impact investment by foreign businesses in India.

The ministry has also said that "in-person testimony of local activists" are used by some foreign nations to "add credibility" to their reports which are used as "instruments of control" to further their "core objective" of "foreign policy masked in the cloak of protecting civil rights".

Such "tools" are "heavily biased" against "targeted countries" as unlike in the United Nations, no opportunity is provided to the "targeted" nation's local Embassy or High Commission to record their opinion, the ministry said.

The ministry also said the Look Out Circular was not issued to limit all of Pillai's freedom but "was focused only on the proposed activity of her deposing before a foreign parliament".

The Centre also said her meeting with the committee would have had a "global cascading effect" which would create a "false image" of the country's "massive" efforts to protect tribals' rights that would only serve the "foreign policy interest of a foreign nation."

The submission to the High Court has been made by the Home Ministry in an affidavit filed on 13 February pursuant to its direction to the government to file a counter affidavit with regard to their allegation mentioned in the report produced by Foreigner Regional Registration Officer.

Pillai was in January to travel to London to address the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Indo-British relations about the plans of London-registered company Essar Energy who want to build a coal mine in the Mahan forest in India. She however addressed the gathering through video conferencing.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Feb 18, 2015 19:08:13 IST