On Sunday 30th December, Police interrogated US bases freelance journalist, Mark Scialla for going out of his tourism activities to meet and take interviews of those allegedly affected by Sterlite copper plant. Scialla, who regularly writes for the international publications such as Al Jazeera, The Guardian and PBS, was released after being interrogated for seven straight hours.
After arriving here at India on December 4th on a tourist visa, Scialla went to Tuticorin. “We were not informed about his visit to Tuticorin. Even the hotel where he was staying did not inform us and they did not have any information about the purpose of his visit. If a person comes on a tourist visa, he has to stick to tourism activities. But he was found visiting here and there, taking interviews,” the police said.
Meanwhile, representative of the Tuticorin People Welfare Lawyers Federation have alleged that that the foreign national had come to Tuticorin to instigate another protest against Sterlite. They urged police to take a serious view of the issue and conduct a detailed inquiry.
It is alleged that Scialla was in touch with anti-sterlite protesters such as Fathima Babu, and they were assisting him in meeting with alleged victims of the copper plant. However, Fathima Babu has rubbished all the allegations saying that she met Scialla only on Saturday. She said that Scialla wanted her to take him to a few places to see people affected by Sterlite, so she referred him to PUCL member, Prince Cardoza, who had done some work on the issue.
Scialla said he has not shared the story on Tuticorin with any publications yet. He further said that police has not put any restrictions on him, nor has asked him to leave the country but only informed that for the rest of his period in India, a police officer will accompany him.
“I spoke to the U.S. Consulate officials in Chennai. I am going to see if I will be deported. Otherwise I will return home on January 13 as planned,” said Scialla, who is in India for the first time. Scialla said he was informed that police would question all the people he spoke to regarding the Sterlite story.