A day after Jharkhand tribal rights activist and author Gladson Dungdung was offloaded from a flight to London at Delhi airport, Ministry of External Affairs officials have confirmed that his passport was valid. It had been restored in 2014 after being impounded for six months. Officials did not specify why Dungdung was not allowed to board Monday morning's flight. Dungdung had said immigration officials had not let him board the flight citing a problem with the passport.
“The Regional Passport Officer in Ranchi confirmed that the passport of Gladson Dungdung was restored on July 25, 2014, and all international checkpoints were informed accordingly,” said a senior official. “The exact reason for offloading him may be ascertained from the Bureau of Immigration.”
On Monday, Dungdung was on his way to the University of Sussex, where he was scheduled to take part in a workshop on environmental politics on May 10. He was forced to return to Ranchi after immigration officials stopped him from boarding the Air India flight. He had alleged that he was being harassed by the government for his activism on tribal land and forest rights. He has campaigned extensively against human rights abuses that have taken place during counter-insurgency operations in Jharkhand.
Dungdung had stated that the immigration officials had not allowed him on the flight after noticing that his passport, which was issued in 2010, had been impounded by the Regional Passport Office, Ranchi, in 2013. At the time, Dungdung had alleged that this was done because he had spoken against the government's land acquisition policy in tribal areas, and because he had refused to comply when local police officials had asked him to pay a bribe during the process of passport verification.
He had said that he got his passport back in 2014, after about six months. After his latest book, Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India, was published in July 2015, he had travelled to the United Kingdom to launch it. He had also attended a conference in Denmark in October 2015 on the same passport. Officials have not disclosed the legal basis on which was he not allowed to fly this time, he said.
“There is definitely foul play,” said Dungdung. “The official kept me waiting at the airport for nearly two hours between 5 and 7 am on Monday. He consulted his supervisors and then made a note in my passport before confiscating it.” He added, “Clearly, a junior-level official could not have taken such steps without authorisation from his seniors. Then who is responsible for this?”
Dungdung said if the Ministry of External Affairs really did not have information on why he had been offloaded, then it should take appropriate action against the official and return his passport at the earliest.