Intellectuals protest deportation of U.S. broadcaster-writer

Kochi: David Barsamian, Leftist writer and director of Alternative Radio, during an interaction organised by the P.J. Antony Foundation in the city on Saturday. Photo:Vipin Chandran   | Photo Credit: Vipin Chandran

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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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 9:55:24 PM |

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