It’s 10:40 am. On the empty, gray terrace of Greenpeace India’s office in Gautam Nagar, a stone’s throw away from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai pulls out two chairs and sits down facing me. In the next one hour, as we try to talk, we would be interrupted by nearly a dozen phone calls. Surprisingly, not one is about the court hearing, that is to begin in a few hours, to decide whether she is anti-national, or on the contrary, protecting public interest by fighting for rights of tribals in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh and against a ‘British’ firm.
The calls, majority of them, are from her family. “We have done all we could for acchan (father). Now we are only torturing him amma. How much longer can he survive on ventilator support?” she asks in Malayalam. After a brief silence, supposedly to make allowance to her mother’s protests, she continues resolutely, “He’s surviving because of a machine. They are medically managing his life and only pushing it for a few days while torturing him. Do you really want to see him alive like this? We cannot continue to do this to him.” This seems to have convinced her mother, who hangs up soon after Pillai promises to get back to Kerala soon, after the signing of the counter-affidavit responding to the Ministry of Home Affairs’s reasons for not allowing her to board a flight to London by Indian immigration.