Aakar Patel, chair of human rights organisation Amnesty International India, on April 6 said he was stopped from travelling to the U.S. from Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru.
In a post on social media, he said he was informed by immigration officials that he had been put on the exit control list by the CBI even though he got his passport back through a court order specifically for the U.S. trip.
“CBI officer called to say I am on the Look-Out Circular because of the case Modi govt has filed against Amnesty International India,” he tweeted. He tagged the Prime Minister’s Office, seeking an explanation.
“I was shocked as I did not know there was a look out circular against me. I should have been informed of this, which would have provided an opportunity for me to challenge it legally,” he told The Hindu.
Mr. Patel was due to go to the U.S. on a lecture tour of three universities in Michigan, Berkley and New York, regarding the attack on civil society in India and about his latest books.
“The government has demonstrated how civil society is under attack in the country. This comes close on the heels of journalist Rana Ayyub being stopped similarly. These restraints for travel have time and again not stood the challenge in the courts, but still the government persists. I am exploring my legal options in the case and will challenge the LOC soon,” he said.
The LOC is in connection with a case the CBI is probing related to alleged irregularities in foreign funding in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). In 2019, it conducted a series of raids and searched the premises of the Amnesty International India Private Limited (AIIPL) and Indians for Amnesty International Trust (IAIT) in Bengaluru and Delhi.
In September 2020, the NGO halted India operations after announcing that its work in the country was affected as the government had frozen all its bank accounts.
Mr. Patel’s passport, however, was impounded in Surat, Gujarat, in connection with another case filed against him by a BJP MLA, he said.
“I went to the court and got my passport released specifically for this trip. The Gujarat government resisted and opposed my travel in the court there but failed. Now they have an LOC against me, which I didn’t even know,” he said.