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Procedure was followed in Priya Pillai issue: MHA

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its affidavit in the Delhi high court filed on February 13 has laid bare the government’s “national security” concerns of Greenpeace India’s anti-coal campaigns and said that the action by the immigration official [to offload Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai] was as per procedure and bonafide.

It has raised foreign policy concerns and cited examples to show how testimonies by campaigners can be used in reports made for the purpose of being used as “instruments of foreign policy” by the US, UK or European Union (EU).

Since 2006, the European Parliament has already passed six resolutions against India on Dalit rights and one on violence against women. The content of these resolutions indicates that the Government of India and All Party Parliamentary Group on Tribal People and call for the EU to factor in this so called fact in its trade negotiations with India and Indian companies. This is a clear example of the use of human rights by certain nations/group of nations in order to forward the “core objective of their foreign policy.”

The affidavit states that the vast documentation created through this wide international network has the potential to be used as a regulator or an instrument of control to subdue India’s strength on global platforms. These instruments have high potential to damage India’s growth prospects, at a time when India is actively pursuing economic growth and development which required foreign direct investment to create infrastructure and manufacturing capacity.

These instruments have been used very recently against Iran, Russia, and North Korea, all of which have had a serious impact on the growth rates, well being and happiness of the country. MHA says some foreign nations /groups of nations have evolved a system of various instruments of control as tools to further their ‘core objectives of foreign policy” masked in the cloak of protecting civil rights.

An important element in creating this documentation is the in person testimony of local activists, which serves to add credibility to these reports. Unlike at the United Nations, these reports by the US, UK and European Parliament do not provide opportunity to the Government of India or the local embassy or high commission to record their opinion and are heavily biased against the targeted country.

The documentation that would be created by Ms Pillai’s testimony before the UK Parliament’s formal committee would have a global cascading effect and serve only the foreign policy interests of a foreign nation. It would lead to false and misleading depiction of India’s massive efforts to protect tribal people’s rights and India’s image abroad especially when GOI is inviting foreign businesses to invest in India.

Given that Ms Pillai has all the freedoms available under the Indian Constitution, her deposing before a foreign Parliamentary Committee has been judged to be prejudicial to national interest. The Lookout Circular(LOC) was issued not to limit her freedoms but was focused only on the proposed activity of her deposing before a foreign Parliament. There is sufficient material to indicate that the petitioner’s intended action was prejudicial to national interest, the affidavit said.

Listing the national security concerns that arise out of Ms Pillai’s deposing before a foreign Parliamentary Committee, the MHA affidavit said she is one of the very few Indian activists who have agreed to depose before a formal committee of a foreign Parliament-All Party Parliament Group (APPG) whereas other prominent Indian activists such as Medha Patkar, P V Rajagopal, Nandini Sundar, Admiral Ramdas, Aruna Roy or Praful Bidwai have never known to have done so. The MHA admitted that these activists have relied on all the institutions of India’s vibrant democracy as provided for by India’s Constitution-they have protested through dharnas, fasts, marches approached Indian courts at all levels, and used the print and electronic media. There are no restrictions on the petitioner to follow the same or similar routes, the affidavit advises.

There are indications that the UK Parliament’s APPG report on Tribal Peoples will use Ms Pillai’s testimony to rate India at a low level, leaving India open to a potential sanction regime, the MHA affidavit stated. It cited the UK APPG’s report on religious freedom issued in 2014, in which various alleged violations of religious freedom in India find detailed mention. Similarly the European Parliament’s Working Group Report on Religious Freedom in February 2014 places India in the lowest category alongside Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern(CPC). The US law gives powers to the US president to issue trade, arms and investment sanctions against CPC countries, which do not perform to its standard. With regard to religious freedom, tribal people Indigenous People, Violence against Women, Human Trafficking and Dalit rights, all reports from various Commissions and countries feed on each other and quote each other, thereby creating circular documentation. The affidavit feared that the APPG report on Tribal People is expected to add to that documentation.

MHA defended its action says that Ms Pillai had travelled abroad on eight occasions between 2007 and 2012 and she was never prevented as she was not known to be travelling with any specific anti- India agenda. The affidavit said this time she was travelling to the UK to depose before a formal committee of the UK Parliament with the clearly defined motive of carrying out a campaign against the Government of India in order to impact India’s image abroad, at a time when India is looking forward to foreign direct investments in India’s infrastructure and manufacturing sector.

Greenpeace international has come to notice during the last few years, to be focused on India’s energy plans, suspected to be at the behest of foreign interests inimical to the overall national interest of India. Greenpeace International’s UK office has taken very keen interest in promoting the growth of Greenpeace India’s ground-level protests and 13 of Greenpeace International’s foreign activists have been noticed to be closely involved in Greenpeace India activities (from UK, 3 from USA and 1 Australian),the affidavit said. All of them have been blacklisted as their activities were found to be in violation of visa rules and they were found to be training and motivating and organising Greenpeace India’s activities to create field level protests near thermal plant and coal mine locations, apart from other activities that would damage India’s energy security interests.

The main objective of Greenpeace’s foreign and Indian activities has been to step up agitations in coal producing regions and at thermal plant locations. Greenpeace India’s first major effort at “protest creation” was at Mahan, Singrauli district –it created a front entity called Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) , funded it and posted Priya Pillai to organize the villagers.

Singrauli was also chosen by a group of anti- coal global NGOs, including Greenpeace International, at an international coal strategy conference in July 2012 in Turkey since it is the heart of India’s thermal energy programme and provides coal for 15,000 MW of thermal power produced in that region. Also India plans to expand its power production facilities in that region by another 15,000 MW.

All protest activities of Greenpeace India and MSS were funded almost entirely by Greenpeace International. Ms Pillai created and led protests in that area which led to rising levels of farmer and villager protests and law and order situations. The affidavit cast doubts on Greenpeace International’s funding pattern and said it does not receive donations from governments or corporations but collects donations in small amounts from millions of nationals from various countries. This form of funding is opaque, not available for scrutiny and is contrary to the transparency shown by almost all major above-board global donors and NGOs. This is what intelligence agencies keep a close watch on the activities of NGOs such as Greenpeace, the affidavit said.

Greenpeace India’s foreign funding was curtailed by the MHA in 2014 on the basis of specific intelligence inputs which included a comprehensive list of Greenpeace’s plans to ‘take-down’ nearly 40,000 MW of proposed thermal projects through “foreign funded protest creation activities,” the affidavit said.

After the MHA action against Greenpeace India’s funding, the NGO’s UK office took up the agitation and invited Ms Pillai and some others to visit UK to meet MPs and pressure groups and to address a UK Parliamentary group. On this occasion there was specific intelligence that Ms Pillai was going to testify before the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tribal People and she had plans to testify on alleged violations of forest rights of indigenous tribal people in the Mahan coal block area. She was also to testify on the alleged poor state of tribal people in India and the manner in which the Government had allegedly increased efforts to rob the tribal people of their rights which is an absolutely false allegation, MHA said.

Demanding that Ms Pillai’s writ petition in the high court be dismissed, the affidavit said that when Ms Pillai approached the immigration check post at the airport the officials learnt she was on the LOC (Look out Circular) dated October 10, 2014. A numbered LOC was opened by the assistant Director IB regarding Ms Pillai on January 10, 2015 to prevent her from leaving India since she was going to project the image of the Indian government negatively at the international level. The LOC is a secret document emanating from a secret data base of IB and cannot be shared since the content, nature and data structure of this data base is of huge interest to agencies inimical to India’s national interest. Almost all countries have provisions like the LOC, termed as No Fly list which are classified as secret, the affidavit said.

As per LOC text, action to be taken on detection was mentioned as “prevent subject from leaving India and originator be informed.” The “originator” of the said LOC is joint director, Intelligence Bureau, MHA. The affidavit clarified that the Ms Pillai had a lookout notice in her name in accordance with the directions of MHA issued via an office memorandum dated October 27, 2010 after directions of the Delhi high court in July and August 2010. The LOCs are issued on two counts-by investigating agencies when a person is involved in crime and secondly by security agencies including IB when activities of an individual are found to be prejudicial to the national interest.

The IB has been issuing LOCs for the last several decades for various reasons, all of which pertain to concerns regarding national security. The security situation in India is threatened by the activities of militants, secessionists, insurgents and other elements acting against national interest, including at the behest of foreign agencies.

The MHA said if the purpose of specific journey is found to be with the objective of carrying out activities, which would harm the overall national interest of the country or create strains in friendly relations of India with another country, he/she is prevented from undertaking that specific journey.


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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 5:38:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/procedure-was-followed-in-priya-pillai-issue-mha/article6902582.ece

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