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Indian Journalist/Ex-Prisoner Denied Travel

M.N. Ravunni is the secretary of the Central Propaganda Committee of the Communist Party of Kerala in India. He is also the chief editor of the magazine Munnanipo-rali. In July, 1995, Mr. Ravunni applied for a passport to visit other countries, including the U.S. and discuss the political situation in India and elsewhere. Despite repeated requests the Indian government claimed it needed more time to "collect information" about him. In fact, they were using delaying tactics to disrupt his travel plans and prepare a dossier on his activities as a revolutionary journalist.

Ravunni filed suit claiming that the denial of his passport application constituted a violation of Article 21 of the Indian constitution which guarantees the right of free travel to all Indian citizens. The High Court of Kerala (an Indian state) rejected the passport issuing authorities' explanation and sought a detailed reply from the government. The government could not tell the court why it would not issue Ravunni a passport beyond claiming he is on the All India and State Security lists. These so-called "security lists" are a remnant of British colonial rule and are prepared according to the current whim of the Indian government.

Ravunni spent nearly 16 years in prison as a political prisoner. PLN has been asked to publicize his plight. Our communication from Indian friends reads in part: "Comrade Ravunni has a long record of nearly forty years of Communist activity. Despite detention, torture and death threats, he has been in the forefront of solidarity activities with the oppressed in India and abroad. If the Indian government succeeds in imposing a ban on his movement, this would have serious repercussions for the progressive forces .... The fact that a person of Ravunni's stature and unstinted record of serving the people is denied his basic right to a passport by the very authorities notorious for their repeated foreign jaunts spending valuable foreign exchange, and now on trial for their illegal foreign exchange rackets, is an ironic exposure of the true state of affairs in this country.

"We appeal to all justice loving, progressive and democratic people to protest against the denial of a passport to Comrade M.N. Ravunni, and to send letters and messages to: Sri. Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of External Affairs, External Affairs, South Block, New Delhi, India. You should demand an immediate end to the illegal ban on his movement and the issuance of his passport."

The right to free travel and free speech are elemental for any country claiming to be a democracy. At PLN we ask our readers to contact the Indian government on Mr. Ravunni's behalf and to reproduce and reprint this article so more people will be made aware of his situation. Since he has "won" his case in court, with no result, public attention is required so he can travel, as he has a full right to do under Indian law.

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