[A speech by Jan Myrdal, (internationally well-known writer for his support for the people’s movements world-wide), at a public meeting sponsored by the Forum Against War on People, New Delhi, 6 February 2012.]
I want to say something on the international solidarity movement with the peoples of India.Dear friends,
We are here because there is an ongoing war against the peoples of India by the Indian state itself or – to put it more charitably – by dominant sections of the Indian state machinery. You as Indian citizens want to stop this war. I and other friends of India abroad are trying to organise an international solidarity movement with the people of India against the horrors of this war.
To try to do that is not interference in the internal affairs of India. We do not tell you in India how to conduct your affairs. That is for you to decide. No foreigner can prescribe for you. Even if many from the imperial camp – governments, media, NGO’s – always try do so.
This respect is a matter of principle. You – not we – are in your actions responsible to the peoples of India. As we said during the solidarity movement with the peoples of South East Asia in their struggle against US imperialism: “Support the peoples of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam on their own terms.”
But there is a truth that was formulated in 1624 by John Donne and has been quoted and used by those of us in different countries that have taken a stand against oppression and social cruelty – as during the Franco war against the people of Spain. A truth that is the base of international solidarity:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main /…/ any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
There is nothing secret about the present cruel war against the peoples of India. I could myself witness and hear about the war against dalits and adivasis when I was in Andhra Pradesh in 1980 (see India Waits, Sangam books, Hyderabad) and now 2010 in Chhattisgarh (see Red Star over India, Setu Prakashani, Kolkata).
In this war armed gangs and groups from ruling elites and land grabbers are attempting to drive people from their homes their lands and forests. Villages are being burned. Women are raped. Not as an expression of male sexual lust but as a cold conscious attempt thus to destroy the dignity and self-respect of the people. Those who defend themselves are branded as terrorists.
This war is not only in this way traditionally cruel but is on the formal state level by the government conducted in open disregard to the existing laws and regulations of the Indian state itself. Encounter is in India a word with a different meaning to that which you find in a normal dictionary. In India it is the specific word for the planned underhand murder by governmental agents of important political undesirables. Last summer Azad was thus lured to his death by the political promise of a discussion with the government about a ceasefire. Just now Kishenji was “encountered”.
But there is also nothing strange about this war. It is a war against the people for simple economic reasons. Greed and profit. That is a truth even officially documented by the Government of India. See “Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms”, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. Volume 1 (Draft Report), March 2009) Conclusion – “The Biggest Grab of Tribal Lands after Columbus”.
In India this is well known, the war as I said is no secret. But abroad, in our countries, that which is well known and reported in India is kept strangely unknown – or only known in a partial and obfuscated manner. There is a very simple reason for that. The official media are either owned by the large economic private interests that are greedily implicated in the exploitation of the resources of India or by governments that for their own imperial interests are against any public discussion about the realities of India.
This is in our age normal. Any study of international politics this last century shows that the media can be rather free in minor questions. But when it comes to great and decisive questions of war, colonialism or imperialism then the media become mouth pieces and sounding boards for the powers that instigate war and defend exploitation.
There have been and there are individual journalists and writers who try and now and again succeed to get true information spread through the big media. This we know. But the editorial gate keepers serving the interest of the owners are vigilant. The honest reporters have not only been and are few but every time the situation becomes acute they are gagged. Remember that an American writer as well-known and as popular as Edgar Snow only survived by translating comics during the cold war when he was black-listed in the large US media precisely because he was well informed and knowledgeable.
As the conflict is well-known inside India the ruling circles have in their own interest to accept news and some discussions on this war against the people. But outside India there is a general silence. The reason for this is not that the Government of India has erected an official censorship curtain around India. That is not needed as long as the gate keepers in the official media in the imperial countries do their job.
I don’t know those who are reporting from India. What they have to say about monuments and folk art and the economic and scientific expansion in India is often interesting. They might be the best of reporters for all I know. They are, I believe, all honourable men and women. Yes, they are all honourable men. But as we can see they do not report to the public in their home countries – the imperial countries – much about the real situation of the peoples of India, of the adivasis and dalits for instance. It might be that the reporters are not interested. But the real explanation I believe is that that the editors back home do not allow them to.
That is why the international solidarity movement with the peoples of India must see it as a main topic to spread information through the internet and those independent – not by governments or monopoly capital funded – magazines and papers. The US and other governments are trying to suppress the relative freedom of the net. But as yet we can still use these outlets to spread information to our public.
In this we need your co-operation. We do not, and you need not, trust the official reporters. After all even if they want to be different and report honestly they are employed to sing as they are paid to sing. If they are honest and also strong enough to overcome the gate keepers: Good! If not, it is necessary for us to use other ways. But what is needed the world around is concrete information. You have to see to it that it is spread. The net is still rather open even if the media are controlled.
I have my political opinions. Biased, the Swedish government would call it if they did not condemn me by using a far stronger word. Also I am a part of the solidarity movement. But this international solidarity movement with the peoples of India is not monolithic. It is a very broad and often disparate movement. That is its strength. It is not a party. The participants do not agree in religious or social questions. They might not all make the same analysis of imperialism or of the character of the Indian state as I do. But they agree on the specific question of the need of support for the peoples of India.
It is important to remember this. The solidarity movement with the peoples of India has and must have a very broad base. You might say that during this last century we who have been active in the political work against wars, imperialism and colonial oppression often have made mistakes and proven ourselves weak. The demonstrations I participated in – in Stockholm and Istanbul – against the United States war against the people of Iraq were among the largest I have seen in my life. But still our governments – and also the parties that called themselves “left” – then supported the destruction of Iraq.
Yes we were not strong enough to hinder that. It is possible to criticise us. But during the decades we have also been successful. We were so with the world-wide campaign for the “Stockholm appeal” in stopping the more than possible US nuclear war against the then Soviet Union in 1952. We were of importance in building a people’s support in our countries for the peoples of South East Asia in their armed struggle against US imperialism. In Sweden the government sent out riding police against us on 20 December 1967. But we got such a large popular support that a couple of weeks later Olof Palme from the same government that had its police beat us up now marched in the front of the mass demonstration against the US war. That new position of the Swedish government was a product of the solidarity movement (“If you can’t beat them – join them!) and became a great help to the struggling peoples of South East Asia.
Sweden is a country far away from India. But that there is a growing popular solidarity movement with the peoples of India, demonstrations, meetings study groups, leaflets and literature is not an expression of a feeling for “others”. I did quote John Donne just because he expresses a truth. A solidarity movement becomes strong when the participants are conscious of the human reality that no man is an island of itself. To defend the rights of the peoples of India is to defend the Swedish people! – Jan Myrdal