New Delhi: Activist Priya Pillai and three others held up placards in a Varanasi-Delhi IndiGo flight on Thursday condemning the airline’s decision to ban comedian Kunal Kamra from its flights after he confronted Republic TV news anchor and editor Arnab Goswami on a flight.
According to a report in The Telegraph, Pillai, Medha Kapoor, Debayan Gupta and another person, stood up with placards while the evening flight was still on the Varanasi tarmac.
— Medha Kapoor (@MedhaKapoor4) February 6, 2020
The placards read: “We condemn Indigo’s ban on Kunal Kamra #YouDivideWeMultiply”.
After they stood with placards for a while, IndiGo’s staff asked them to take their seats, which they did. IndiGo sources later described the protest as “peaceful”.
Speaking to The Wire, Pillai said the ban must be seen in the backdrop of the current political context that is suppressing dissent and the strong nexus between the government and corporations.
“I protested peacefully in my individual capacity as a citizen of this country. The way Indigo arbitrarily and hastily banned Kunal Kamra from flying without even an inquiry (which the IndiGo pilot himself has made public through his letter) followed by others including the government-owned Air India clearly smells of collusion between corporates, corporate-owned media and the government to suppress dissent and freedom of opinion.”
Pillai also objected to a government-owned airline banning a traveller wihout an inquiry.
“Arnab Goswami works for a private media house and what is the justification for a government owned Air India to ban someone allegedly violating the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) guidelines without even waiting for a proper inquiry when the incident did not even happen on board their flight. So, the message is loud and clear – nobody can question people who support the government directly or indirectly. We need to condemn all such high handed acts as they are against the basic principles of our Constitution,” she added.
She said that some fellow passengers congratulated them and asked them to lift the banners so that they could be seen clearly. Few others claimed that the protest goes against the guidelines.
Last week, after Kamra shared a video where he was seen having a one-sided conversation with Arnab Goswami on a flight, IndiGo announced on Twitter that it was suspending him from flying with the airline for six months.
The airline also tagged Union minister for civil aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri in its tweets. Puri then asked other airlines to impose similar restrictions on Kamra.
Soon after, Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir complied with Puri’s demand and said that Kamra would not be allowed to fly with them indefinitely.
Even though revised rules by the Ministry for Civil Aviation mandate that airlines have to set up an internal committee to look into onboard unruly behaviour by passengers after it is reported by the captain of that particular flight, IndiGo reportedly chose to flout the rules.
Later, in a letter to the administration, the IndiGo pilot who was in command of the flight the incident with Goswami took place, questioned the ban and said that he was “disheartened” that the carrier had undertaken the decision to ban Kamra without consulting him first. He categorically stated that he didn’t believe Kamra had indulged in unruly verbal behaviour as mentioned in the Level 1 category and said that the comedian had fully complied with the crew’s order to return to his seat.
Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap has since said that he has decided not to fly with IndiGo airlines to stand in solidarity with Kunal Kamra.
“I was booked on IndiGo by the organisers to come to Dum Dum…. After Kamra was banned, I told the organisers I will not fly IndiGo. I told them I will not fly this airline because I thought the ban was very unreasonable…. My thing is: there is nothing I can do about it. It does not make much of a difference. But as I wanted to register my dissent, I thought that I would not fly IndiGo,” he told The Telegraph.