The Secretary General of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD) — a coalition of over 11 human rights groups — was denied entry into India and deported from Mumbai airport on Sunday night, soon after her arrival from Philippines.
Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso, 51, is a key human rights defender working for United Nation’s International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. She has worked closely with Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Kashmir, a member of AFAD, during which she raised the issue of disappearance of Kashmiri men, allegedly after being picked up by security forces.
She has also been vocal regarding the presence of “mass graves” in the Valley, which was established by the state human rights commission.
“I had applied for a visa at Indian High Commission in Manila. They told me that there isn’t enough time to process and advised me to apply upon arrival in India,’’ Bacalso told The Indian Express on phone from Manila. “I arrived at Mumbai airport around 10 pm on Sunday on a Thai Airways flight. But, before I could fill the visa form, I was denied entry. Three guys took me to a room, where there were nine officials. As I was waiting, I saw them fill papers for my deportation. They did not identify themselves,” she said, adding that she was put back on a Thai Airways plane.
Bacalso said she asked the officials whether she was being refused entry. “They told me yes. They didn’t give me a reason. But they asked when I visited India last time. I told them that I came towards the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. They told me that I did something bad when I was in India last time,” she said.
She added that this was the first time she was denied entry into any country. “I was shocked. I have no doubt that I was denied entry because of our work in Kashmir, where APDP is a member organisation of AFAD. I had been talking about enforced disappearances and persecution of human rights defenders,’’ she said.