For Rainer Sonntag Hermann India remains a nightmare. But after having lived in Nagercoil for three months, he was deported to Germany on 27 February 2012 for allegedly funding the anti-nuke protests in Koodankulam. The recent Intelligence Bureau report on foreign-funded NGOs also names Hermann for funding anti-nuclear protests. Hermann spoke to Jeemon Jacob on why he is being framed as a threat to India’s national security.

June 18, 2014, Issue 26 Volume 11


Mystery man Rainer Hermann Photo: Jayahara

Rainer Sonntag Hermann | 51 |
Photo: Jayahara

Are you aware that the IB has submitted a report alleging you were actively involved with the anti-nuclear campaign in Koodankulam?
I wasn’t aware of it until last week. Like majority of Germans, I’m opposed to nuclear energy and concerned about the safety of the people. We have witnessed several nuclear plant tragedies across the world. Even after Chernobyl and Fukushima, we have not learnt lessons. Germany decided to phase out of the nuclear power in 2011. I saw how the anti-nuclear-movement achieved this political change and wanted to have a look at how Indians are dealing with it. That’s how I went to a protest in Kanyakumari, 20 kilometres away from Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu where I was holidaying five years ago. It was a public conference concerning nuclear power in Kanyakumari. Dr SP Udayakumar, who I had met earlier, informed me about the conference. I felt it would be interesting to attend it. I did not take part in organising or financing the conference. Neither did I make a speech there. I just watched the proceedings. I did not know that it was a crime for a tourist to watch public protests in India.

Then how did your name figure in the IB report?
While I was waiting to be deported, my laptop was confiscated and I was asked to handover the password of my laptop. I don’t know exactly what the officials read and copied. At least one private photo was stolen and leaked to the press. My local email programme stored a copy of all my sent/received emails. I suppose the “secret paper” agencies are quoting was a map I emailed. When I went to the protests in Kanyakumari, someone pinned a map of India on the wall and participants began to mark nuclear power stations across the country and people glued their local contact addresses on the map. When some people started to taking down that information, I was asked to take photograph of the poster and send it to their addresses on email. I just obliged them and mailed them the photograph. That is my alleged crime.

The report also names you as the German contact for anti-nuclear activities and source of foreign funding of protests in India.
I spend my time travelling to cheapest destinations in the world. I don’t understand the allegations against me. Had the authorities checked my emails thoroughly they would have realised that I am not an activist. I don’t have the financial resources to fund protests in India or elsewhere. I’m not linked to any organisation or NGO. I saved some money when I was still working as a programmer and now am living off it. If Indian authorities had found evidence against me violating laws of the land, they could have prosecuted me before deporting. I’m not a VIP in Germany and have no diplomatic immunity. I feel that I was made a scapegoat to further a certain agenda and the authorities are repeating one lie after the other. I’m not a threat to anyone.

Do you have plans to visit India again?
I have no such plans. When the immigration officials deported me two years ago, I was told I would not get a visa again. I was treated badly by Indian authorities. I’m not interested in going through this trouble once again. So, India is a closed chapter for me — but I feel sorry for Indians who live under an oppressive government. I feel that in a democracy human rights are better respected and protected.

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