National News

Australian Journalist Avani Dias Claims Modi Govt ‘Forced’ Her To Leave India

Avani Dias, the South Asia Bureau Chief for Australian broadcasting firm ABC News, left India on April 19. On Tuesday, she claimed that the Indian government denied her a visa extension because her reports “crossed a line”.” While she obtained a two-month extension after “intervention from the Australian government”, it was just 24 hours before her flight out of India, she added.

¬†Dias posted on X, “Last week, I had to leave India abruptly. The Modi Government told me my visa extension would be denied, saying my reporting “crossed a line”. After Australian Government intervention, I got a mere two-month extension ‚Ķless than 24 hours before my flight,”

“We were also told my election accreditation would not come through because of an Indian Ministry directive. We left on day one of voting in the national election in what Modi calls “the mother of democracy.”

The situation arose amidst the removal of Avani Dias’s documentary about the killing of pro-Khalistan activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada from YouTube India. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement suggesting a possible link between Indian government agents and Nijjar’s killing sparked a diplomatic dispute.

On March 24, YouTube informed the Australian broadcaster that they received an order from India’s electronics and information technology ministry to block Dias’s documentary. Following this, ABC claimed that the Criminal Intelligence Department in Punjab was questioning its journalists. Despite getting approval, they were blocked from filming a public event at the India-Pakistan border.

The Indian government official stated that ABC’s documentary, titled “Sikhs, Murder and Spies¬†and aired on March 21, was filmed without proper permission. Additionally, the Border Security Force (BSF) refused permission for the ABC team to film near the Wagah land border due to security-related restrictions.

The official also claimed that Dias’s associates obtained their visas based on misleading or incomplete information. The official disagreed with Dias’s claim that she had to leave India because she couldn’t cover the general election. They said she left because she had to start another job in Australia on time, not because of visa delays.

Furthermore, the documentary was accused of glorifying terrorism, including events like the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 by Khalistani activists. The official stated that the documentary provided a platform to “extremists and a fringe group of separatists¬†such as Nijjar, Dal Khasla, and Sikhs For Justice Australia.

According to the official, the documentary lacked objectivity, displayed a pro-Khalistan stance, and failed to acknowledge opposition to Khalistan in Punjab.

Regarding Dias’s visa application, the official provided details, stating that in early April, assurances were given at a meeting that her visa would be renewed. An extension letter was issued in early April for her to submit a fresh application, and her current visa was valid until April 20.

The official mentioned that Dias only paid the visa renewal fees on April 18, just a day before her sudden departure. They added,¬†Her visa was extended until the end of June to allow her to cover the election and engage in other journalistic activities.”

The official also stated that authority letters for access to polling booths and counting stations couldn’t be processed while the visa extension was underway. However, two other ABC correspondents had already received their letters.

ABC managing director David Anderson expressed full support for Avani 

Dias addressed the issue in her podcast ¬†and I quote, “Looking for Modi.¬†She remarked, “It felt really shocking. This place my partner and I had called home for the last two-and-a-half years, this place that we loved so much, was not going to be home anymore. We were being forced to leave on the Indian government’s terms.”

 

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