South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy deplores the Government of India’s decision to ban the noted Swedish writer, Jan Myrdal, from visiting India.
On May 16, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Jitendra Singh, declared in the Rajya Sabha that there would be a complete ban on Jan Myrdal’s future visits to India because he had advised the CPI (Maoist) in regard to strategy, particularly on the importance of reaching out to the middle class, and attended Naxalite conventions in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Ludhiana.
Jan Myrdal has a long connection with India, which he has visited since his youth, where his mother had been an Ambassador for Sweden, and where his Nobel Laureate parents were friends of Jawaharlal Nehru. His first book on India, India Waits, was based on his visit to Andhra in 1980 and published in 1984. His latest book, Red Star Over India: Impressions, Reflections and Discussions when the Wretched of the Earth are Rising, is based on his visit, at the age of 83, to the Maoist-held forest land of Dandakaranya in 2010. Published in English in Kolkata in 2012, it has already reached its second edition and been translated into Bengali, Telegu, Hindi, Punjabi, and various European languages. It is soon to be published as an e-book. Myrdal visited India in January-February, 2012, at the invitation of Kolkata Book Fair, where his book was released, and gave talks at the various cities mentioned by Jitendra Singh as sites for Naxalite conventions, including the First Naveen Babu Memorial Lecture organized by the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
Jan Myrdal is an internationally renowned writer, who from his first book on China in 1963, Report from a Chinese Village, has been known as a consistent sympathiser of Maoist politics. He is also well known for his sympathy for the oppressed and championship of their right to struggle for liberation. He has always opposed imperialist policies and wars of the West led by the United States. At the same time he has been a staunch defender of democracy and the freedom of expression that lies at its basis.
Myrdal has openly declared that there is a war on the people of India, particularly the most oppressed section, the dalits and adivasis, and that this war is waged for the simple economic reasons of greed and profit. His movements and his views have been well known. That he sympathises with the victims of what even the government’s own report calls “The Biggest Grab of Tribal Lands after Columbus” (“Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms,” Government of India, Vol. 1 [Draft Reports], March 2009) and their resort to armed struggle against the corporations and governments engaged in destroying their land, livelihood, and life ways, is no secret.
In this light the Government of India’s current reaction to Jan Myrdal can only be seen as a symptom of its growing desperation in the face of the Maoist insurgency that now covers a third of India. It is particularly a response to the international attention the government’s repressive measures have received in the cases of Dr. Binayak Sen, a pediatrician who had been imprisoned and sentenced to life imprisonment on account of his Maoist sympathies, and Soni Suri, a tribal school teacher who has been raped and tortured in custody and still languishes in prison. The government’s panicky response is also a part of its general attempt to silence all criticism of its violation of human rights that led it to deport David Barsamian, Director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado, on his arrival at Indira Gandhi Airport in September 2011.
We deplore these attempts by the Government of India to silence its critics from abroad and all who have the courage to speak truth to power at home. It is the courage of such people that keeps democracy alive. We urge the Government of India in the name of democracy to reverse its decisions on suppressing the critical voice of people such as Jan Myrdal.
News release June 7, 2012
Board of Directors
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)
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