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Protests outside Indian consulate in San Francisco

Last updated on: November 10, 2010 11:39 IST

Protests outside Indian consulate in San Francisco

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George Joseph

Protests were witnessed in front of the Indian consulate in San Francisco, US, protesting the denial of entry in India to Prof Richard Shapiro, chair of the anthropology department at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

Shapiro's wife Angana Chatterji, who is a well-known activist, is a citizen of India and a permanent resident of the US. She is also the co-convener of the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir.

Several students and activists took part in the hour-long protest that included chanting, singing, dancing, and marching.

Statements were read attesting to the violations perpetrated by the indefinite ban placed on Shapiro's travel to India and called for its revocation. Later they gave a memorandum to the staff at the consulate.

"The protest was successful in that we clearly and publicly communicated our dismay and alarm at the barring of Prof Shapiro and the isolation of Kashmiris from the international community," Amanda McBride, one of the student organisers said.

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Image: Students protesting outside Indian consulate in San Francisco

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"Our message was firmly supported by community members, those present and afar. Prof Shapiro was barred from India without being informed of any reason or legal basis for his denial, which raises questions of democratic rights and academic freedoms in India with respect to Kashmir. We hope and expect that the Government of India will take steps toward a fair resolution of this situation."

Shapiro, a US citizen, accompanied Chatterji to India on November 1. They reached New Delhi in the early hours of the day. When he first presented his passport to the immigration authorities, he was stamped an entry permit. Then, they started processing Chatterji's passport.

She has been stopped regularly since the inception of IPTK in April 2008. As they examined her passport, the immigration officer asked for Shapiro's passport and informed him he was denied entry for an indefinite period, while his wife was granted entry.

The entry stamp was cancelled though they did not cancel his visa. He was asked to leave the country immediately.

The authorities refused to pay for his return airfare. He was made to leave at 11.50 am the same morning. Officials refused any reason for the denial.

Shapiro returned to the US while Chatterji went forward with her visit, including in Kashmir. She returned to the US on November 8.



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"It is sad and disturbing that the government is acting in such a manner. We all know that they were not targeting him, but me for my work as regards Kashmir. This is like a warning," Chatterji said.

She said people doing such work are always cautious, but she has no intention of leaving her work. In Kashmir the situation is really sad and people are suffering, she noted.

"Angana Chatterji, with due respects to her educational background, has been systematically promoting hatred and as an expert on Kashmir, I have at times found it just unbearable," Jeevan Zutshi, chairman of International Kashmir Federation said.

"She is one sided and is an impediment in the path of building confidence amongst Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus. She has made it her career to bash India. I applaud the Government for sending her husband back. They should ban her as well," he said.

Shapiro had traveled to India approximately 30 times earlier. Though he wrote articles on Kashmir problem, his area of work is not India or Kashmir, but focuses primarily on issues of race, class, gender, and alliance building in the United States, and discourses on power and subjectivity.

Shapiro regularly traveled to Kashmir since 2006, and interacted with various human rights groups, scholars and youth. But due to his tourist visa status, he has not participated in formal conferences, and has not conducted any applied research in Kashmir or in India, according to his supporters.

'Given that Professor Shapiro's work focuses neither on South Asia nor India, it appears that his right to travel has been restricted in an attempt to further intimidate Prof Chatterji, and to discourage her from continuing her work as co-convener of the IPTK, a release from Students for Solidarity, who organised the protest said.

Earlier, Chatterji had been charged under Section 505 of the Ranbir Penal Code, with writing to incite against the Indian State. Last year, the IPTKF had come up with an extensive report on mass graves in Kashmir, saying 2,900 unidentified persons were buried in these graves after being killed by security forces.



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