I’m urging you to write a letter to the Indian Embassy in Washington to protest its ban on David Barsamian, a great journalist based in Boulder, Colorado.

On September 23, the government of India would not let Barsamian enter the country. For a country that prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy, that is a disgrace.

Barsamian is the founder and director of Alternative Radio, which for twenty-five years has been generating and distributing some of the most thoughtful interviews and talks in the entire U.S. media.

Barsamian arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi at 12:30 a.m. last Friday morning.

He explained what happened to him in an interview with Outlook, one of India’s most prominent magazines.

The officer at the immigration counter checked his computer screen and said, “Wait here,” and then returned with more immigration officers.

“That is when I got worried and anxious,” Barsamian said. “They put me in a room with a couch and a chair. Ten minutes went by, fifteen minutes went by, I kept getting up every once in a while and said what's going on? . . . I had to go to the bathroom and one officer accompanied me.”

Finally, one of the officers told him, “You have been denied entry into India. You are on the banned list and you may not enter the country.”

So they put Barsamian on a plane and sent him back to the United States.

“In free India, I was denied entry,” said Barsamian, who had visited India several times before without incident. “I have been to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt but I never faced any problems there.”

Forty-five Indian intellectuals have signed a statement denouncing Barsamian’s ban.

“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, and that government agents not authorize the denial of entry and eviction of visitors to India, or monitor their movement,” the statement said. “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. Recognizing this, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified, protects freedom of expression, right to travel and scientific exchange.”

Full disclosure: David Barsamian is a friend of mine and a longtime contributor of phenomenal interviews to The Progressive with the likes of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. He collected some of these in a recent book, “Louder Than Bombs: Interviews from The Progressive Magazine.”

For The Progressive Barsamian has interviewed several Indian intellectuals, including Amartya Sen in August 2001, Vandana Shiva in September 1997, and Arundhati Roy twice, once in April 2001 and then again in March 2009. (Both Roy and Shiva signed the statement of protest over Barsamian’s ban.)

Barsamian’s 2009 interview with Roy may have gotten under the skin of the Indian authorities. In the introduction to that interview, he gave some background on India’s repression in Kashmir. “Tens of thousands of Kashmiris have been killed, thousands have been disappeared,” he said. And he asked Roy about it.

She denounced the crackdown.

“There isn’t any possibility of India managing to continue to bulldoze this population in Kashmir,” she said. “Eventually all that can come out of it is destruction.”

The Indian government is intensely sensitive on the issue of Kashmir. That may be why it gave Barsamian the boot.

But you can’t call yourself a democracy while suppressing free speech and clamping down on criticism.

Please write the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and let Ambassador Nirupama Rao know how you feel about India’s treatment of this outstanding American journalist.

Write to:

Ambassador Nirupama Rao

The Indian Embassy

2107 Mass. Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20008

Thank you for standing up for David Barsamian and for free speech and freedom of the press.


Matthew Rothschild
Editor, The Progressive

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Wall St. Protesters Show the Way"

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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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