Greenpeace Campaigner addresses British MPs via Skype

Villagers in Mahan empowered as their voices are heard at a global stage

Press release - January 14, 2015
New Delhi, 14 January 2015: Greenpeace India campaigner, Priya Pillai stuck to her commitment of taking the voices of struggle from Mahan to a global stage and addressed a gathering of British Parliamentarians at the Parliament in London today. This, even after the government of India tried to halt her speech, when she was barred from boarding her flight to London.

In her address Pillai began by saying: “I am here to represent the people of Mahan and talk about their struggle to ensure that their rights guaranteed under the constitution of India are not trampled upon. The word ‘Mahan’ means ‘Great’ in Hindi and the community in Mahan personifies that spirit. I am speaking to you today because Essar Energy is a company registered in London… I am all for development. The compelling motivation for me to get up and work every day is to make sure that development reaches all including the people of Mahan… I urge you to exercise your influence over the London-based company Essar Energy to help stop the environmental and human rights violation going on in Mahan as it is among the last remaining  Sal forests of Singrauli which should not be sacrificed for coal worth 14 years”.

Pillai had been invited by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APGG) in the British Parliament to talk to MPs about London-based Essar Energy and their destructive plans for the forests of Mahan. The MPs were disappointed that Priya could not be present in person as Skype was not the best way to understand a delicate issue like Mahan. However, they agreed for a video conference because they understood the urgency and the need for them to know what London based Essar is up to in Mahan.

Commenting on the issue Labour Party MP, Virendra Sharma who is also the Chair of Indo-British APPG said: “The alleged detention of Priya Pillai is a worrying development.  Democracy requires freedom to campaign, and freedom to question the government. I’m proud of my Indian heritage, and that I was born in the world’s most populous democracy, but any undeserved detentions are a shameful stain on a nation.”

Pillai wasn’t the only one subjected to this kind of harassment by the government officials. Villagers from Mahan, who were also planning to go for the event were pulled up and interrogated by the local police. “We are very proud that for the first time our problems have been taken to an international stage. We want to show the whole world whose development this project is going to serve. For us the forest of Mahan is our provider, protector and God and we will not allow it to be destroyed to earn profits for Essar,” says Anita Kushwaha, a resident of Mahan forest, who was also supposed to fly to London for this event.

Even three days after Pillai was barred from leaving the country, Greenpeace is still to hear from the government on the complaints they have raised with the Ministry of Home and External Affairs and the Airport Authority of India.

Commenting on the government’s failure to justify her offloading Pillai said: “The issue of debarring me from leaving the county has become a typical case of passing the buck where each concerned ministry has fallen short of answers to suitably justify the law, under which they have banned me. When will someone in the government stand up, take responsibility and say, ‘I ordered this.’? We are determined in our campaign to protect India’s environment and people and we will continue our work in Mahan even in the face of this massive clampdown.”

For further Information, contact:

Priya Pillai, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India: Ph - 9999357766; 

Pari Trivedi, Communications Officer: Ph- 9873495994; 

Avinash Kumar, Communications Officer: Ph – 8359826363; 

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