"This ban is a blow to India’s democratic reputation."
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been placed under ‘house arrest’ in his hotel in Mumbai.
Under police orders, he is forbidden to leave his hotel room. Four officers are also stationed in the lobby to prevent him from leaving.
On October 14, 2023, police visited Mr Tatchell to explain his “preventative detention”.
They searched some of his belongings and photographed his diary without a warrant.
Mumbai Police, allegedly acting on the authority of the Indian government, have banned a planned peaceful human rights protest outside the International Olympic Committee Congress in the city.
The protest, scheduled for October 16, was organised by Peter Tatchell, who is the Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
It was to highlight that nearly all the nations likely to build for the 2036 Olympics are dictatorships that persecute their own citizens, especially LGBTs, women, migrant workers, refugees and ethnic and religious minorities.
During the afternoon of October 13, six officers turned up at Mr Tatchell’s hotel room and interrogated him and his colleague, Pliny Soocoormanee, for two hours.
When they first came to the hotel, police said no protests were permitted near the IOC Congress, which is scheduled to take place at Mumbai’s Jio World Centre from October 15-17.
Sub-inspector Shrikant Neve, of Kurla Police Station, said:
“We are not allowing it [the protest]. We are not giving permission.
“You make serious accusations against India [over its human rights record]. What you are proposing to do is negative towards some of India’s allies.”
Officer Neve was referring to the Peter Tatchell Foundation’s briefing document for distribution to IOC delegates and journalists.
It highlights human rights violations by likely bidders to host the 2036 Olympics, such as China, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia.
Peter Tatchell said: “When I pointed out that the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the right to assembly and peaceful protest, I was told, ‘These rights only apply to Indian citizens. Foreigners do not have these rights’.
“I was stunned. I assumed that India was a democracy and that peaceful protests by anyone were allowed.
“This ban is a blow to India’s democratic reputation. It is what we expect from police state regimes.
“The police added that I had, in any case, violated the condition of my tourist visa, which does not permit anything other than tourist activities.
“I was not aware of this restriction and offered to apply for a new visa. ‘A protest will still not be allowed’, I was told.
“I also asked to meet the city’s senior police officers, or the relevant government officials, to secure a dispensation – not to protest – but to merely distribute our briefing document to IOC delegates and journalists.
“I was told that this would ‘not be allowed’ and that ‘no protests of any kind are allowed near the IOC meeting… the entire area is off limits’.
“It is shocking that India feels so threatened by a simple briefing on human rights violations.
“The officers were repeatedly on their mobile phones consulting with senior police colleagues and unknown others.
“The police were very courteous, friendly and charming throughout.
“Their extensive phone calls seemed to suggest that they were trying to find a compromise.
“But they appeared to be under orders from higher-ups to ban any action directed at the IOC.”
“In the end, officers urged us not to protest and warned of possible detention and deportation if we did.
“After two hours, the police left.
“Just over an hour later, they returned to serve a ‘Notice’ under ‘Section 14 of the Foreigners Act 1946,’ which prohibits violations of the terms of a visa – punishable by up to five year’s imprisonment and a fine.
‘It was signed by Senior Inspector, Ashok Khot, of Kurla police and warned that any contravention of the tourist visa conditions would result in ‘Legal actions’.
“I am now discussing with my colleagues from the Peter Tatchell Foundation in London about what to do regarding Monday’s planned protest at the IOC Congress.
“It is apparent that I and my Foundation colleague, Mr Soocoormanee, are under 24-hour police surveillance.
“All Friday night, and on Saturday morning, police officers have been stationed in the lobby of our hotel, the La Hotel Metro, in Kurla West, Mumbai.
“We will not be able to do anything without the police knowing and intervening to stop us.
“When my colleague went for a morning walk he was accompanied by two officers.
“Right now, India feels like a police state, like what I experienced at the World Cups in Moscow in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.”