måndag 5 november 2012

I am on India's black list! Banned!


This is the letter that I sent to the Prime Minister in October, 2012.
It was accompanied by two lists of names: 100 grandparents, parents and children, 75 professionals.

Stockholm, Sweden Sunday, 28 October 2012

To the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh,

·          President of India, HE Shri Pranab Mukherjee
·          Minister of Home Affairs, Shri Sushil Kumar Sambhaji Rao Shinde
·          Minister of External AffairsShri Salman Khurshid 
·          Chief Information Commissioner, Shri Satyananda Mishra
·          Chief Minister of MP, Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan
·          Ambassador of India in Sweden, Her Excellency Mrs. Banashri Bose Harrison
·          Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sweden, Mr Carl Bildt
Your excellency,
I am very sorry that I have not received any answer or comment to the letter that I sent in June. As you see, I have not completely lost my hope to be removed from India’s black list. I hope I can soon visit the Bhopal family that has adopted me as a grandmother.

I have just been told that one of my Bhopali “daughters” have got pulmonary tuberculosis. She is very week. I am scared that it might be multiresistant – this is getting more and more common all over the world. So I want to see her as soon as possible. To look after her and her family is of course much more important that celebrating my 71st birthday with them (see my former letter).

She has two children, the girl, 18, who have visited me two times and is now studying dentistry, and a son 16. The father is jobless since long – as you might know, it is more difficult for Muslims to find a job than for Hindus. My daughter has been the one bringing some money to the family (of course, I pay the school fees for the children). She has not succeeded to get a permanent employment as a teacher, which makes her salary very low. Now, when she is ill, I suppose she has no income at all.

This time, I really hope you will contact me, in some way or another.

To show that my case is not unknown, and what people think of it, I have collected names of known and unknown persons who support my demand to go back to India. Attached are the two namelists: one from 100 known and unknown grandparents, parents and children, the other one from 75 medical doctors, health care staff and scientists. As I have not published this in Swedish media yet, the lists are rather short.

You may ask why there are so few Indian names on these lists. The truth is that my Indian friends and colleagues are afraid. I have been told that the climate in India has hardened when it comes to dissidents. I am not the first one to be sent back by return flight. My Indian friends don’t dare to express their opinions; they know there might be troubles with the authorities.

If I don’t get a reaction within a few weeks, I realise my case is hopeless. I will have nothing to loose. So I will send a press release to all kind of media, telling about my case, adding the namelists. Of course, I will send it also to our government.

I am quite sure that this will not damage India’s international businesses, nor tourism. But it might give some people a little less positive image of India.

Hoping to hear from you, or your ambassador in Sweden, soon,

Yours sincerely,

Dr (Ms) Ingrid Eckerman, MD, MPH
Swedish Doctors for the Environment

This is the letter that I sent to the Prime Minister in June, 2012. 

To the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh,


I am writing to you, desperately hoping to get a response.

I am longing for to see my “Indian family” in Bhopal. What I want is to spend my 71st birthday (in February 2013) together with my then nine “grandchildren”. At this age, one does not know what future possibilities there are to travel. I know that my artificial hip joints might fail me any time, and the risk grows for every year that passes since I had my operations.

I understand that my entry is prohibited under the specific order of the Central government.
I am not allowed to cross the border of India, not even if I have a proper visa. In January 2011, I arrived to Indira Gandhi International Airport, in order to continue to Bhopal to visit my “family”. I was also invited to a government sponsored conference on what to do with the Union Carbide plant site.

Instead of being welcomed to India, as my valid visa would indicate, I was forced back on the plane, going back to Sweden. I never met the person who made the decision, did not have the possibility to talk to him and explain why I came. I had met the Ambassador in Stockholm, he had no objections. All the same, this humiliating situation happened!

Being a retired family practitioner, not a famous activist and publisher like Jan Myrdal, this is a bit difficult to understand. India is a rich country of great and growing power. Small persons like me cannot really hurt this power – not even by publishing a book about the Bhopal disaster, which happened nearly 30 year ago. My book “The Bhopal Saga – causes and consequences of the world’s largest industrial disaster”, based solely on already published material, was published in India, eight years ago. In spite of this, I had no troubles to enter India until four years ago. Why? I get no answer. No one wants to tell me.

My “Bhopali family” consists of my “brother” (his wife diseased a few years ago), his four children, their spouses and their eight children (soon nine). I regard these children as my grandchildren. The oldest girl, Fairy, now 18, has visited me in Sweden two times. Within one or two years, her brother and her cousin, both today 14, will visit me. I will pay all expenses. But the small ones will forget me until they are old enough to visit me – and I might be too old to receive them. And as you understand, as retired, it is not possible for me to pay the travels for all family members, in spite of how much I would like that!

I use part of my pension every month to support mainly Fairy’s family, but also the others. My contribution is education for the children. Ever since 1994, I have supported the families in need so the children have been able to join good schools. Fairy’s faith was to marry a man she does not like when she became 18, in spite of her very good results in the private school. Thanks to my support, she has instead just passed the PMT test, and we hope that she will be admitted to Gandhi Medical College. Her younger brother is admitted to a boarding school, combining sports and education. Also some of the smaller children are supported economically so they can join good kindergartens.

Some of the activists in Bhopal are my friends, and I stay at Sambhavna Trust when I am there. My position as a “medical advisor” is however very passive. We don’t have very much communication, so usually, I have no idea what is going on at Sambhavna and in Bhopal until I arrive there. Yes, I have participated in a few rallies – but I have never been active in arranging them.

I suppose you understand, that if I would be interested in agitating against the Indian Government, I could easily do so from Sweden. There is a lot of information to be found on the internet. But I am a medical doctor, not a journalist. So why should I? When I write, I prefer to write in Swedish about family medicine and environmental work in Sweden. Through my work in the NGO Swedish Doctors for the Environment, I hope to reduce the spreading of chemicals in the environment. And I suppose the GoI cannot oppose that?

What happens here in Sweden is that relatives, friends, colleagues and even some journalists start to wonder. They just cannot understand in what way I can threaten India. And they support my prayer to be removed from the black list.

You are my last hope.

Yours sincerely,
Dr (Ms) Ingrid Eckerman

·          Minister of Home Affairs, Shri Ramachandran Mullappally
·          Chief Minister of MP, Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan
·          Minister of External AffairsShri E. Ahamed   
·          Ambassador of India in Sweden, Mr Ashok Sajjanhar
·          Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sweden, Mr Carl Bildt

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