Australian Greenpeace Official Denied Entry Into India

Secretariat Building, South Block. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Secretariat Building, South Block. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: The stand-off between the Union Home Ministry and global environmental watchdog Greenpeace International continued on Monday when a staff member of the organization was denied entry into India.

Greenpeace International member Aaron Gray-Block, who was travelling from Sydney on an Australian passport, was barred from entering India at Bangalore airport on Saturday evening despite having a valid business visa and all necessary documents.

The organization said while denying the official entry into India, “no formal reason was given by immigration officials for the decision and he was not officially deported”. It said the passport of Aaron Gray-Block, who was travelling to India to take part in a series of meetings with staff and to learn more about Greenpeace India’s current campaigns, was seized and he was put on a flight to Kuala Lumpur. His passport was returned to him after he landed in Kuala Lumpur and he subsequently returned to Australia.

Responding to the case of Gray-Block, Greenpeace India programme director Divya Raghunandan said: “Our colleague has a valid business visa, and yet he was prevented from entering India with no reason given. We support the free movement of people across the world, which is crucial to the work of business as well as charities. Greenpeace International is a global organisation that helps to find solutions to environmental problems. There is absolutely no reason why one of its staff members should be treated in such an arbitrary way, and we expect the Ministry of Home Affairs to offer a full explanation.”

“We are forced to wonder if all international staff of Greenpeace will now be prevented from entering the country? If the Home Minister Rajnath Singh has a stand on this, then we would like him to state it clearly,” said Raghunandan.

Greenpeace in 50 countries

Greenpeace said functioning in more than 50 countries, it “believes in the process of international integration of people, thoughts, resources and ideas. Denying entry to a Greenpeace International employee with a valid visa is yet further proof of the extent to which the Indian Government is prepared to go in violating Greenpeace’s right to freedom of expression under international law and under India’s Constitution.”

The organization claimed that it was facing a “coordinated crackdown orchestrated by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs”.

On April 9, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh blocked Greenpeace India’s bank accounts for which the environmental group had to seek interim relief from the Delhi High Court. The MHA had accused Greenpeace of serious violations of the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act 1976.

In its order on May 27, the High Court allowed Greenpeace to operate its two accounts for receiving domestic donations.

Previously, Greenpeace India’s activist Priya Pillai was prevented from travelling to London and it was only after four months, and after a legal appeal that her ‘offload’ passport stamp was formally expunged in May.

The development comes barely four days after Congress president Rahul Gandhi met several right’s activists, including Priya Pillai, who have been impacted by the BJP Government’s decisions and expressed solidarity with them.

Opposition criticism

The manner in which the MHA has taken on Greenpeace has come in for severe criticism from the Opposition. Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had termed as “twisted” the Ministry’s logic to charge Greenpeace India, and its affiliate, Greenpeace Environment Trust, with misusing foreign funds and foreigners for “anti-national” activities.

“MHA apparently regards testifying about India before a meeting abroad as “anti-national”,” he had quipped, adding that on the other hand, it seems MHA regards it as perfectly patriotic for the Prime Minister to go abroad and claim on foreign soil that all Indians were ashamed of being Indian until he, Modi, became PM!”

For his stand on the issue, Aiyar had even equated Home Minister Rajnath Singh with English lawyer and judge Sir Sidney Arthur Taylor Rowlatt who had presided over the Rowlatt Committee appointed by the British to probe the links between political terrorism in India and the German government and the Bolsheviks in Russia. The committee’s report had led to the enactment of the Rowlatt Act, which had indefinitely extended the emergency measures of preventive indefinite detention, incarceration without trial and judicial review.