French tourists ‘helped Indian Maoist rebels’

Ten French nationals have been thrown out of the Indian state of Bihar after they were alleged to be working with a charity linked to Maoist rebel fighters, officials said on Monday.

The group, including six women, were sent from the eastern state to New Delhi for breaching restrictions on their tourist visas, police said, though officers were unable to confirm whether they would be deported from India.

“Nine of the ten French nationals had tourist visas but they were found involved in activities of an NGO (non-government organisation),” Bihar additional director general of police Kumar Rajesh Chandra told AFP. 

R.K. Singh, the home ministry’s senior civil servant in New Delhi, was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying the French group “were working for an NGO believed to have links with frontal organisations of Maoists.”

Police officials who declined to be named told AFP the group were involved with Ekta Parishad, a charity that says it is a non-violent activists’ movement working for local people’s land, water and forest rights.

“We strongly suspect that they (the French nationals) visited Maoist strongholds in Jamui and Simultala and held meetings deep in the forests,” a police official said.

Ekta Parishad’s coordinator Pardip Priyadarshi told AFP that it rejected all charges of being linked to the rebels.

“We have nothing to do with Maoists activities in Bihar or elsewhere, we strongly deny the police version,” he said.

The presence of foreigners in areas of India controlled by the Maoists is sensitive after two Italian men were abducted last month by the rebels in the state of Orissa. They were both later released unharmed.

India’s Maoist guerrillas, who claim to be fighting for the rights of poor tribal minorities and farmers, have waged a decades-long battle across central and eastern states to overthrow state and national authorities.

They often target police and government officials in deadly ambushes and mine attacks. In their latest major strike, they killed 11 policemen in a landmine blast in Maharashtra last month.

The French group are thought to have arrived in India earlier this month and travelled to Bihar after visiting south India. One was reported to be on an employment visa.

They were detained on Saturday and taken under police escort to the state capital Patna on Sunday, from where they flew to New Delhi.

The Hindustan Times quoted police as saying that the group denied knowledge of Ekta Parishad’s alleged links to the Maoists and said they were heading to Bodh Gaya, a Buddhist tourist attraction in Bihar.

Bihar’s deputy inspector general of police Paras Nath told AFP that it was not up to state authorities to decide whether they would be deported from India.

The French embassy and Indian home ministry in New Delhi declined to comment.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Where to celebrate Diwali in France in 2019

France’s Indian community will be hosting a number of Diwali events across the country in the last days of October.

Where to celebrate Diwali in France in 2019
Photo: AFP

If you’re looking to add a bit of spice and colour to an otherwise grey October in France, maybe a dose of Diwali is what you need. 

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is a four to five day-long festival of lights which is celebrated mainly by Hindus every autumn, but also by Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists.

This year it is estimated around a billion revellers across the globe will light candles outside their homes and at festivals to symbolise the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

In France, where around 20,000 Indian citizens are officially registered, there will be a number of events in the final days of October to mark the occasion.

Nantes, Friday October 25th: More than 1,000 people are expected to take part in a Diwali celebration in the Loire-Atlantique city which will include concerts, talks and group meditation. The Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) and the city’s Sahaj Yoga meditation centre are organising the event.

Rennes, Saturday October 26th: Brittany will hold a multi-faceted Diwali celebration organised by its local Namasté Breizh association.

It will take place in the Rennes commune of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande (10 Rue Francois Mitterrand), starting at 5pm on Saturday with a concert by legendary bansuri (Indian flute) player Harsh Wardhan and then followed by classical and Bollywood dance routines, an organic vegetarian dinner for guests and a Indian dance party to cap it all off.

More info on tickets here.

Montpellier, Saturday October 26th and Sunday October 27th: The southern French city will hold a two-day Diwali music and dance festival with performances by more than 15 internationally renowned artists, kalbeliya and bhangra dance workshops, a dance competition and much more.

Find out more from organisers Natyamandir here

Paris, Saturday October 26th: Paris’s India House (Fondation Maison de l’Inde) has an interesting Diwali programme planned for the weekend.

Starting at 5pm on Saturday it will include a magic show, a Rajasthani Gypsy music and dance concert by the Anwar Khan Group, a fireworks display and a special Diwali dinner.

Paris, Wednesday, October 30th: If you missed earlier Diwali celebrations in the French capital, you can still head to the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) on Wednesday for a grand event being organised by the Indian Embassy in Paris and GOPIO.

Visitors can expect a show of traditional Indian songs, music and dance, candlelit dinners and appetizers, and of course, fireworks.

READ MORE: In which parts of France do Indians live?