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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

Dead Men Talking

The Indian state can silence the living, not the voice of the silent

Dead Men Talking
Dead Men Talking
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

On September 23, 2011, at about three in the morning, within hours of his arrival at the New 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 40 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, bellbottom-wearing interviewer in Peter Wintonick’s documentary film on Noam Chomsky and Edward S. 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, Chhattisgarh, 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 peephole into the government’s concerns and predilections. Taking cover under the shabby old banner of the War on Terror, the Union home...

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