“Can the home ministry explain how Myrdal is a threat to India’s security?”

  • Wednesday 23 May 2012

  • The home ministry’s proposed ban on Swedish radical leftist, Jan Myrdal visiting India smacks of intolerance and lays bare the reluctance of the India government to listen to views critical of the state.

    Myrdal, son of Nobel Laureates Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, has been visiting India for decades.

    The ministry alleges that he is a Maoist sympathiser and advises the rebels. Minister of state for home Jitendra Singh told Rajya Sabha that Myrdal asked the Maoists to focus on ‘propaganda against security forces and highlighting human rights issues’ to win middle-class support. Myrdal was in India earlier this year to release his book ‘Red Star over India.’

    This and his extensive writings on India’s Maoist movement appear to have rattled the power that be. By no stretch of imagination can Myrdal’s writings be described as violent or incendiary. On the contrary, he speaks up against violence – violence of the state against its people. And this has raised the home ministry’s hackles. Myrdal’s writings are not underground literature. He has been transparent about his views.

    Can the home ministry explain how Myrdal is a threat to India’s security? The advice he allegedly gave the Maoists is hardly new. Surely the Maoists don’t need to be told that focus on the state’s shabby human rights record will win them support among the Indian middle class.  This is common sense that every guerrilla, indeed many Indian citizens are well aware of.

    A denial of visa to Myrdal is not going to silence him. If the government believes that banning him will make him stop writing about issues that lie at the heart of the Maoists’ armed struggle it is mistaken. More importantly, it will not make the problem that Myrdal writes about go away. Shooting the messenger will not end the armed uprising in the Indian heartland.

    In June 2010, Chidambaram warned civil society groups, NGOs, intellectuals and the general public that if they supported Maoist ideology they would attract ‘action’ under the Unlawful Activities ((Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967. Scores of local activists who criticised the state’s action against tribals have since been arrested for ‘supporting Maoists’. In doing so, the government indicated that criticism of the state is illegal. It is in this context that the proposed ban on Myrdal’s entry must be seen.

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