giovedì 13 ottobre 2011

Dead man talking

Di Arundhati Roy

Dead men talking

In this photo taken on March 17, 2005, Arundhati Roy shakes hands with Yasin Malik in New Delhi. – AFP Photo
NEW DELHI: On 23rd September 2011, at about three in the morning, within hours of his arrival at the Delhi airport, the US radio-journalist David Barsamian was deported. This dangerous man, who produces independent, free-to-air programmes for public-radio, has been visiting India for forty years, doing dangerous things like learning Urdu and playing the sitar.
He has published book-length interviews with Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ejaz Ahmed and Tariq Ali. (He even makes an appearance as a young, bell-bottom wearing interviewer in Peter Wintonik’s documentary film on Chomsky and Herman’s Manufacturing Consent.) On his more recent trips to India he has done a series of radio interviews with activists, academics, filmmakers, journalists and writers (including myself). Barsamian’s work has taken him to Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan. He has never been deported from any of these countries.
So why does the world’s largest democracy fear this lone, sitar-playing, Urdu-speaking, left-leaning, radio producer? Here is how Barsamian himself explains it: “It’s all about Kashmir. I’ve done work on Jharkand, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Narmada dams, farmer suicides, the Gujarat pogrom, and the Binayak Sen case. But it’s Kashmir that is at the heart of the Indian state’s concerns. The official narrative must not be contested.” News reports about his deportation quoted official “sources” as saying that Barsamian had “violated his visa norms during his visit in 2009-10 by indulging in professional work while holding a tourist visa.”
Visa norms in India are an interesting peep-hole into the Government’s concerns and predilections. Taking cover under the shabby old banner of the War on Terror, the Home Ministry has decreed that scholars and academics invited for conferences or seminars require security clearance before they will be given visas.  Corporate executives and businessmen do not. So somebody who wants to invest in a dam, or build a steel plant or a buy a bauxite mine is not considered a security hazard, whereas a scholar who might wish to participate in a seminar about say displacement or communalism or rising malnutrition in a globalized economy, is.
Foreign terrorists with bad intentions have probably guessed by now that they are better off wearing Prada suits and pretending they want to buy a mine than wearing old corduroys and saying they want to attend a seminar. (Some would argue that mine-buyers in Prada suits are the real terrorists.)

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