Jan Myrdal: Letter to Carl Bildt

After threats by government officials in in Indias parliament that Jan Myrdal will be deprived of possibilities to visit India again, the author wrote the following to the Swedish FM. Jan Myrdal has travelled in India and reported about India for more than a fifty years but Indias government now seems eager to end that reporting. - red.
To Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.
This is not a personal letter but a letter to you in your capacity as Foreign Minister of Sweden. Such letters are not covered by what with an English language expression is called "a freedom of information act". But as this letter only contains information that is - or should be - in the public domain I will let it be published in India. I do as Gunnar Myrdal used to do in such cases and write it directly in English.
I expect that our Embassy in Delhi has got the full text of the speech about me to the Upper House by the Minister of State for Home Affair Jitendra Singh. I need an exact copy of that so as not to have to rely just on newspaper articles. I thus hope the Embassy can send me that. Also, the last sentences in the report quoted him as saying: "The government is closely monitoring the situation. Such issues are regularly taken up with the countries concerned at the diplomatic level." Does this mean that the Indian government has approached our Embassy about me?
I applied for - and got - a (rather expensive) conference visa for one month for the release in India of my new book ("Red Star Over India"). To the visa application was attached a written economic guarantee from my Swedish publisher (Leopard in Stockholm) and letters of invitation from my publisher in Kolkata (Setu Prakashan) and the Kolkata Book Fair. On my arrival in Kolkata my publisher was asked to keep the authorities informed of where I stayed and where I made public appearances while in India. Which they did.
The book was released at different meetings organized by different organizations in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ludhiana and Delhi. What I said was printed and/or released on the net.
What the Minister of State for Home Affairs Jitendra Singh said to the Rajya Sabha and what - according to Zeenews May 20 2012 - the Home Ministry spokesperson Ira Joshi stated about my visit to India in January/February 2012 is as you see factually incorrect. To put it in other words they are for political reasons "saying what is not".
What are then the political reasons for this? To understand these reasons one should read the Telegraph from Kolkata for Friday May 18:
"Maoist spam in PC mailbox
New Delhi, May 17: When faxes don't work, blitz the home minister's email from abroad.
P. Chidambaram's email ID has been bombarded with messages from the West, calling for the release of an activist and an alleged Maoist sympathiser, provoking curiosity about the foreign appeal for something so 'local'."
The Indian government is obviously more and more disturbed by the growing international knowledge about and interest in Indian affairs.
June 12 last year Arundhati Roy and I talked in London on the ned for international solidarity with the Indian people. We both talked about the strange news blockade of India. The intense discussion and debate in India is not reflected in our media in the Western countries. That is not due to any official Indian censorship (as the British one in India during WW2). It is due to the censorship of the editorial "gate keepers" in our media (and the self censorship of our correspondents in India).
This is nothing new. In the recent anniversary volume of the "Oriental Society" in Sweden I wrote about how news about India (even about the "Quit India" movement, the genocidal Bengal famine and the "Indian National Army")was suppressed in neutral Sweden. You are to young to remember but you should read what I write in that forthcoming volume. (Also about how I opened the door for Adam von Trott zu Solz when he came to our house in June 1944 to get my father to inform the US and Soviet security representatives in Sweden about the 20 July plot. You have all of this in the Foreign Office files and thus know why the Allies refused any help. But what you may not have thought about is why the British MI6 would have placed a "contract" on Adam von trott zu Solz if he had succeeded - as they did on Subhas Chandra Bose when he escaped from India.)
In all our countries the growing solidarity movement with the peoples of India has led to an increased flow of information about India. I would suggest that you - or at least the Embassy - followed indiensolidaritet.org on the net. A broad and non-sectarian news coverage of India (and concrete open discussions between different members on the international necessity of such a broad and non-sectarian approach). Much will remind you of the Vietnam solidarity work nearly fifty years ago - and how it changed the official media from the dominant pro-US stand in the fifties to the more open and liberal policy twenty years later. (Remember how big papers like Dagens Nyheter changed - and remember the way this information work from the base, from below - selling the "Bulletin" outside the state liquer shops - in the end also changed Swedish foreign policy!)
I don't know any of the Embassy in Delhi now. I am after all old enough to be their granfather. But I fear that they more or less share the inhibitions of the Swedish correspondents. It would be good for our country if they could take a broader - and more long range - view. The information is there in India. India is not like Chile during the dictatorship or the Soviet Union!
The present reaction of the Indian government against me is a normal - but irrational - reaction of governments when they notive that they are being subjected to an informed international opinion.
Though there is also another reason for the somewhat hysterical behaviour of the Indian Government. Something I hope the Embassy is carefully taking note of. If you go back to what I wrote some thirty years ago you will see that the scene is changing. At that time the "Left", political movements inspired by Naxalbari, the Telengana struggles and other popular risings, was deeply split and this seemed to increase by ever more splits. (There were reasons for this. That I have written about.) Today the situation is different. The main "maoist" parties and groups have formed a single all-India party, the CPI(maoist). Not only that, despite the different ideological contradictions other groups are agreeing on the main questions facing the Indian peoples. The social contradictions are also such that large sections of the students and the "middle classes" demand democratic and social change.
Take a concrete example. In Hyderabad I met old friends from 1980. When we at that time had gone back underground to Andhra Pradesh to follow the armed squads we had lived in their houses in the "restricted areas". Now they are legal. They take part in elections. There are thus great ideological and political differences between them and the CPI(Maoist). There can be heated debates. But they are not enemies. In the interview with the General Secretary Ganapathy you can see how he discussed all this. (The idea that it is something I "advised" my Indian friends about is so uniformed that it is not even funny!)
(You will find the same picture also with large sections of the CPI. It is not accidental that the mass circulation paper in Europe that now has written most about my book and my work with India is "Neues Deutschland". Why? In former times, during the late Soviet era, I was in that paper of course something unspeakable. Now the scene in Europe has changed and at present the "Linke" in Germany - very close to "Neues Deutschland" - has party relations with the CPI.)
That the Indian government has "banned" me is not of great importance. I have been banned by other governments before (remember what Moscow used to call me!). If you look through the files you will see that I on and off have been "banned" by the United States since 1944 (when I was refused entry as I had spoken on the YCL congress) and on and off then officially invited.  Of course as I am 85 it might take longer than my remaining life span - but that is not of greater importance.
What is important is that you have to see to it - in the national interest of Sweden - that your officials in the Foreign Office working with South Asia take a broader view than do the present narrow Swedish media.
Jan Myrdal



Swedens military allows looting in Mazar

After careful consideration the Swedish Afghanistan Solidarity Society
has resolved to make a police report against journalist Johanne
Hildebrandt for participation in looting of Afghan artifacts.

On 31 August last year Hildebrandt appeared at Riksutställningars
"Revolutionary Seminar". Her presentation would highlight the "role of
museums and cultural heritage in armed conflicts". In the program her
lecture was said to throw light on "the illegal trade in cultural goods"
and it was pointed out that Sweden joined the so-called Unidroit
Convention to protect the looting of cultural property.

The journalist Johanne Hildebrandt who for 20 years travelled around
with various NATO operations talked about how she as an embedded
journalist in the Swedish Nato/Isaf-team FS19 in Mazar-e Sharif in
northern Afghanistan a few months 2010 was with a unit that would
construct a FOB, Forward Operating Base, at a unique hill near the
village Alizayi, Chimtal district, twenty miles west of Mazar (latitude
36.7 longitude 66.62).

The hill is unique in the sense that it is rising tens of meters above
the Balkh river plain and is the only height around. The nearest town is
Balkh, which in the years 2200-1700 BC was the center of the Bactrian
realm, a Bronze Age high-culture that attracted conquerors as Cyrus II
and Alexander the Great. The city is called "mother of all cities" and is
world famous for its wealth of ancient remnants.

The Swedish military ordered a bulldozer to the place, which peeled off
the top on the hill. Hildebrandt talks about how the whole place is full of
potsherds and objects, and that on top of the hill, there were grave
monuments. According to her patronizing description the local
population showed no interest in its ancient history.
What did Hildebrandt do in that situation?

- I "looted" (looted) a little myself, she said, and proudly showed a
selection of objects to the museum people. She said she wanted to show
"the results of her hobby-looting" and wanted help with finding out what
kind of objects she had found. (Her speech - in swedish - is to be seen at

When Eva Myrdal from East Asian Museum explained that she should
have handed over the objects to Kabul Museum, Hildebrand defended
herself by claiming that "there was no way to go to the museum in Kabul
or Mazar. I took the objects to protect them."

A participant at the seminar, a Swedish museum official, suggested that
she would keep the objects and proposed a vote on the matter.

With regard to the total lack of reaction from Swedish media or Swedish
authorities so far the Swedish Afghanistan Solidarity Society appeals to
all international organizations with responsibilities in the field as well as
individuals to react on the Swedish looting in the Mazar-e Sharif area.
We don't know anything about the scope of the looting. But the fact that
a Swedish embedded journalist (her media company is headed by herself
and colonel Ulf Henricsson who has served in several Nato-operations)
can engage in "hobby looting" without any official reaction whatsoever is
most disturbing.

Please let us know any steps You take.
Stefan Lindgren
vice chair Afghan Solidarity Society

The hill outside Balkh that was peeled off with a bulldozer on order
from the Swedish military under Nato command in Afghanistan.

Johanne Hildebrandt showing looted objects.

A pot looted by Hildebrandt and shown to 200 Swedish museum
officials without any consequenses. Also representatives of the Unidroit
authorities were present.
Stefan Lindgren, Fallvindsg 6, 12832 Skarpnäck
Prenumrera gratis på http://www.nyhetsbanken.se/pren.htm