New Delhi: A Greenpeace India activist was today stopped from boarding a flight to London by immigration officials here, prompting the environment group to accuse the government of intimidation, but officials said she was barred from leaving the country due to a look-out circular against her.
Greenpeace India claimed that its senior campaigner Priya Pillai, who was scheduled to address British Parliamentarians on January 14 on the "infringement of rights of forest communities", was "offloaded" despite having proper documents.
"I am shocked and saddened... Today my right to freedom of movement has been infringed and there was an attempt to treat me like a criminal," Pillai said in a statement issued by Greenpeace India.
She was invited by the British MPs to talk about her campaigning with local communities in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh, "where a proposed coal mining project threatens to uproot the lives and livelihoods of the forest and the community which lives there", the statement claimed.
The statement claimed that Pillai was informed by the airport authorities that she is now "banned" from leaving India, even though she has no criminal conviction. Her passport has been stamped with the word "offload".
When contacted, the Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson said "the Ministry has no comment to offer".
However, official sources said that there is a look-out circular against Pillai.
Any person with a look-out circular against him or her is not allowed to enter the country or leave the country, the sources said.
Pillai said she has a business visa to travel to the UK that is valid for the next six months. She told PTI that despite her repeated requests, the officials at the airport did not tell her the reason for not allowing her to board the flight.
She said once during a Mahan community protest, she along with other members were booked under a trespass case.
Greenpeace India said that it has shot off a letter to Home Ministry, External Affairs Ministry as well as Airport Authority of India following this "arbitrary action" and has asked the government to explain the legal basis for the ban on Pillai leaving the country.
Its Executive Director Samit Aich alleged, "The government's intentions are clear- they are trying to intimidate and bully Greenpeace and its employees...."
The organisation claimed that this is the second time its employee has been denied a go ahead by the Indian airport authorities in spite of having valid visa.
In September last year, Greenpeace campaigner Ben Hargreaves ? a UK national - was refused entry into India.
Last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs directed the freezing of Greenpeace India's foreign funds. Greenpeace India has challenged this in the Delhi High Court and the next hearing is on January 20.