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Updated: September 30, 2011 13:28 IST

Intellectuals protest deportation of U.S. broadcaster-writer

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U.S.-based broadcaster and writer David Barsamian. File photo
The Hindu
U.S.-based broadcaster and writer David Barsamian. File photo

Immigration authorities told him he was “banned'' from entering the country

Noted authors, journalists, academicians, lawyers and filmmakers have strongly protested against the denial of entry into India to David Barsamian, a U.S.-based broadcaster and writer.

He has been a frequent visitor to the country since the 1970s and has written extensively about various facets of India and its people.

Mr. Barsamian was deported from Delhi's international airport on September 23 by the immigration authorities, who told him that he was “banned'' from entering the country but refused to divulge the reasons.

“The deportation of David Barsamian unfortunately mirrors the manner in which Professor Richard Shapiro was arbitrarily stopped from entering India in November 2010. We are dismayed that this power to send people back from the airport is slowly becoming a weapon, used to discipline and silence people who draw any kind of attention to uncomfortable truths about India,” eminent intellectuals said in their protest letter on Thursday.

“A year later, Professor Shapiro still has no formal response on why he was stopped, and when he can regain his right to travel to India, where he has family.''

Demanding that the ban on Mr. Barsamian and others like Professor Shapiro be revoked, they asked the government not to impede their return to India. They expressed their concern at the “growing arbitrariness'' of the government in dealing with dissent of any kind. Pointing out that Mr. Barsamian was a veteran broadcaster and a friend of India, they said that he had immersed himself in Indian music, languages and poetry and taught himself Urdu and Hindi and also learned to play the sitar.

“We demand that the right to travel and the right to free exchange of ideas between scholars, journalists, artists, and human rights defenders be respected and protected… Free exchange of ideas is one of the most basic human rights and values in free democratic societies. Freedom of travel is one of the most important avenues for furthering such exchange among peoples,'' they said.

The statement pointed out that India had ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which protected freedom of expression, right to travel and scientific exchange.

The signatories to the statement included Romila Thapar, Anuradha Chenoy, Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy, Colin Gonsalves, Jean Dreze, Mirza Waheed, Nagesh Rao, Noam Chomsky, Sanjay Kak, Shabnam Hashmi, Saba Dewan, Vandana Shiva and Vrinda Grover.

When reached for comments, sources in the Home Ministry claimed that Mr. Barsamian had travelled to India without a “valid visa.'' However, sources at Delhi's IGI airport alleged that Mr. Barsamian had violated his visa norms during his visit in 2009-10 by indulging in professional work while holding a tourist visa. Thereafter, he was put on a watch list by the immigration authorities in order to prevent his entry on his next visit. The watch list was reviewed from time to time on the basis of inputs received from various quarters.

In a statement, Mr. Barsamian said that he was detained almost immediately upon presentation of his passport to the immigration authorities who told him that he was banned from entering India. “To date I have received no official explanation,'' Mr. Barsamian, Director of Alternative Radio, said. He had planned to interview Binayak Sen on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday on October 2 and also planned a visit to Kashmir and other places.

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The same thing happened to me in January, 2011. I was deported from New Delhi airport, although I had a proper visa. Read my blog att My crime? In 2004, I published the book "The Bhopal Saga - causes and consequences of the world's largest industrial disaster". What is happening to India, the world's largest democracy? I am a retired doctor who primararly want to see the Indian family that "adopted" me. What harm can I do to a country like India?

from:  Ingrid Eckerman
Posted on: Oct 23, 2011 at 14:51 IST

As India is a Democratic Republic, the action by the emmigration authority is not so good.

from:  hajera
Posted on: Oct 2, 2011 at 15:20 IST

This is exactly the kind of case that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took up to file a case against the US Dept. of State & Dept. of Homeland Security when the US government prevented a well known and respected South Africa scholar (Adam Habib) under the guise of 'national security'. They argued that this ban violates the fundamental rights of AMERICAN citizens from hearing speech and as such violated the First Amendment. Since the government could bring no evidence to his supposed terrorist activities, they had to withdraw this ban. Maybe this is what's needed in India too?

from:  Sriram
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 16:57 IST

It is sad to read that the authority concerned had banned Mr. Barsamian from entering the country without informing him the valid reason for doing so. Since India has ratified the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, it would seem that the manner in which he was refused entry into the country is anabysmal act of violation of the Covenant by our government. Our citizens have had rarely been subjected to treatment in this manner by other signatory countries in violation of formal agreements. It is noted that intellectuals have justifiably protested strongly against the denial of Mr Barsamian's entry into the country, therefore it is earnestly hoped that the autority concerned would rectify this matter amicably.

from:  Udham Dillon
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 01:14 IST

Our democracy has a depth commensurate with the thinness of its skin.

from:  Moolamanil Thomas
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 00:01 IST

I wish I could read similar stories by local newspapers and magazines about the host of Indians that are denied visas to enter the U.S. .

from:  M.Padmanabhan
Posted on: Sep 29, 2011 at 23:40 IST
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