Her Excellency Ms Meera Shankar
Ambassador of India to the United States of America
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
November 10, 2010
Re.: Denial of Entry to Academics
Dear Ms Shankar:
We the undersigned, concerned academics and activists, are troubled by the recent denial of entry to Professor Richard Shapiro, a US citizen and the Chair of the Anthropology Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Reports indicate that no legal basis was given for the decision to deny his entry (see Scholar’s At Risk Letter ).
Professor Shapiro was in of a valid tourist visa. Reports indicate that he was not given any reason for why he was prevented from meeting with his family who are already in India, which has led many to suspect that the primary reason he is being targeted is because of the work of his partner, Professor Angana Chatterji, who is the co-convener of the Indian People’s Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK).
We are worried by two simultaneous developments that are both disconcerting for academics and troubling for people of conscience throughout the world. First, refusing to allow academics to travel freely in India and preventing them from seeing their families can only be seen as an abuse of authority and a violation of people’s fundamental rights. Using family members as bargaining chips to dissuade academics and activists from engaging in dialogue and the free exchange of ideas because the subject matter at hand (in this instance, Kashmir) is embarrassing to the Indian government is not only unethical but illegal. What has happened to Richard Shapiro and Angana Chatterji is merely the most recent in a long line of abuses against activists and academics working on Kashmir: Arundhati Roy, Parvez Imroz and Khurram Parvez (to name a few).
Secondly, the Indian government continues to isolate Kashmir by systematically intimidating activists, blocking journalists, preventing media and electronic communication, and cracking down on democratic freedoms in Kashmir. As the military governance of Kashmir continues, the Indian government seems bent on devising ever new ways to keep the people of Kashmir from making their case to the international community. Not only is India’s use of military force against its own population disturbing, but there are no real avenues for Kashmiris to address their long-standing grievances with the Indian state. Preventing activists and academics from reaching Kashmir only makes the situation worse.
Free exchange of ideas is one of the most basic human rights and values of all academic communities. Freedom of travel is one of the most important avenues for furthering such exchange among academic colleagues. Recognizing this, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified, protects freedom of expression, right to travel and scientific exchange.
Public reports that Professor Shapiro was denied without reason permission to enter India to accompany his wife as she pursues academic work there suggests that these rights have not been respected. Moreover, in the absence of any publicly expressed, legitimate grounds for doing so, the apparent restricting of Professor Shapiro’s entry despite his possession of a valid visa and entry stamp raises uncertainty not only about his ability to engage with colleagues in his field in India, but also about the ability of other scholars to plan for and undertake visits and research in India.
So, we call upon the Government of India to:
. Revoke the entry ban on Richard Shapiro from India.
. Stop the obstruction of IPTK’s work.
. End barring without due cause.
. Support democratic processes in Kashmir.
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