India bars tribal activist from attending UK workshop

What does India have to hide where tribal rights are concerned? This is the question being asked in the country and abroad after another tribal rights activist was forced to disembark from a flight when on his way to address a foreign audience.

In the incident reminiscent of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai's experience in 2015 when she was to address the UK parliament, on Monday Gladson Dungdung, a tribal rights activist and author from Jharkhand, was offloaded from a London-bound Air India flight.

He was scheduled to take part in a workshop on environmental politics at the University of Sussex in the UK.

He later claimed on Facebook that he had been offloaded for having espoused the cause of tribal peoples in his book Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India.

Dungdung was to board the flight at 4.25 am from New Delhi but was stopped by immigration officials on the grounds that his passport had been impounded. ''I told them that I had a valid academic visa for six months. Besides, my passport was returned to me a few weeks later in 2014 after proper verification. I also undertook visits to the UK and Denmark thereafter, but the immigration officials remained unmoved. I don't understand why I am being stopped now,'' he said.

In a Facebook post, the activist said the reasons given to him at the airport were that his passport had been impounded in 2013, therefore they would send it back to the RTO, Ranchi for verification.

''I m sure that this is a clear impact of my book Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India. Defaulters of millions of rupees like Vijay Malaya can't be offloaded but activists like like me are bound to be offloaded... However, my fight for the Adivasis' ownership rights over the natural resources, Adivasi identity, human rights, ecology and against unjust development processes will continue till they take away my right to life itself,'' he said.