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Author and chairperson of Amnesty International India’s board, Aakar Patel has told The Wire that on April 6 at the Bengaluru airport, when he was denied permission to leave the country, a CBI officer told him he had deliberately chosen not to tell him that he was on the exit control list.
This is the first time Patel has spoken in detail on his airport experience.
Patel says he is hopeful that the Delhi high court, which he has moved, will give him permission to travel.
In a 20-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Patel said that he believes what happened yesterday is probably connected to his recent book The Price of the Modi Years, which critically analyses Narendra Modi’s prime ministership.
Patel explained that yesterday he found out that his name was added to the look-out circular on December 31, 2021, six weeks after his book was published on November 14. However, the last CBI raid on Amnesty International was two years earlier, in November 2019, and the last time he spoke to the CBI was November 2020. This chronology, he says, suggests that the action taken against him, which prevented him leaving the country yesterday, is connected to his book and is possibly some form of ‘revenge’.
Patel also revealed that in the court hearing today the CBI refused to tell the judge who in the CBI had asked for his name to be included in the look-out circular. They insisted it was a collective decision but he believes that this refusal to name the person is a clear attempt to protect a highly placed individual, possibly a minister, who had asked for his name to be included.
Patel revealed to The Wire that he has asked the court to deduct the Rs 3.8 lakhs cost of the air ticket that he incurred, from the salary of the erring CBI officer. He said he had done this because he wants to set a precedent to ensure other officials of investigating agencies do not over-reach themselves.
Speaking about the way journalists are treated by both the Modi government at the Union and by many BJP governments in the states, including that of Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh, Patel said: “They think of ways of torturing us all the time.” He added: “It’s a malice of the government…a signal to activists and journalists and politicians as well to shut up and don’t talk about certain things, don’t bring up the things we are doing to our countrymen and women. You’ll be fine if you keep quiet.”
Watch the full interview here.