ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Priya Pillai Case

The Shadows Lengthen

The case of Greenpeace India activist Priya Pillai is a stark example of how the space for democratic dissent in India is not only shrinking alarmingly but also of the central government's parsimony with the truth. In the entire sorry episode underlining the blatant violation of human rights, the Intelligence Bureau, which seems to be a law unto itself, has played a major role.

At most times, the Government of India tends to be economical with the truth on issues concerning human rights. The latest evidence of this can be witnessed in the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in response to the petition filed by Priya Parameswaran Pillai. Pillai is employed as a policy officer with the Greenpeace India Society that is registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act.

The facts of the Priya Pillai case bear brief reiteration. On 11 January 2015, while attempting to board an Air India flight from New Delhi’s international airport, she was told that she would not be allowed to board the London-bound aircraft. Her checked-in baggage was offloaded and her passport was stamped with the word, “off load.” She was told that this was being done on the “basis of standing instructions by the Government of India.”1 Pillai subsequently learnt from media reports that the Bureau of Immigration had offloaded her due to the existence of a “look out circular” (LOC). The media forgot to mention that immigration officers at the international airports are drawn from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and that for all practical purposes the Bureau of Immigration reports to the IB.

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