An Indian (and global) Dilemma
Sunday, December 23, 2007
On April 2, 1956, I entered India on a World Passport, No. 00001, at Bombay. It was my first trip to India at the invitation of Nataraja Guru of Travancore whom I had met in 1950 in mid-Atlantic on the SS America on my way back from Europe.
On June 8, 1956, after spending a month with the guru in the Nilgiris, I presented an "honorary" World Passport to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in his posh New Delhi office. He accepted it with delight. I then asked him for his blessing "for our humanitarian work." He hesitated. I waited patiently. We stared at each other. The hum of the air conditioner was the only sound. Finally, with a sigh, he said, "Yes, of course, you have my blessing."
I have been to India three times since traveling each time with the World Passport. Twice was at the invitation of the City Montessori School at Lucknow, UP (a "mondialized" city) to attend its yearly Global Symposium, its 30,000 students advocating "enforceable world law for world peace."
In order to attend the 7th Global Symposium at the City Montessori School as an invited principal speaker, on November 30th last I embarked for India with an upgraded World Passport which already had two Indian visas on it, which had now expired.
In the past I always walked into the visa section of Indian Consulate with my world passport in the morning, and returned in the afternoon to receive back my passport -- stamped with a new Indian visa. However, this time the visa process had been "outsourced" to Travisa, an independent travel agency distinct from the consulate. They had never seen the World Passport and had to contact the Consul, who escalated it up the ladder to India for instructions. All this caused long delays, so when I left to India I had not yet received my passport back.
What to do? The conference was beginning December 7th, my non-refundable one-way Air India ticket bought and paid for. The organizers were counting on me to be a principle speaker at the conference at which, ironically, 84 national Supreme Court judges would also be participating together with over 800 peace workers from around the world. Besides, producer Arthur Kanegis and associate producer Melanie Bennett-were to accompany me on the trip.
I was told that if I showed the consular authorities at the airport in Delhi copies of my expired visas, the local authorities could issue me new temporary two-week visa on the spot. So the WSA issued me a duplicate passport and I proceeded on my trip.
Arriving at the New Delhi airport December 1st, after the duplicate World Passport had passed five security checks at JFK, Arthur, Melanie and I descended the steps leading to the Immigration desks in great glee that we had come this far. At first the local officials looked at my world passport, and said it would be no problem to issue a two week visa. However, they said, they did have to call a higher official for authorization. It was 3:30 Sunday morning, and whomever they called must have been abruptly awakened out of the wrong side of the bed because he mumbled something about the World Passport being fraudulent and when it was pointed out to him that it had been visaed in the past, he came back with the claim that India no longer recognized the world passport. This was blatantly false, because another attendee to the same conference had their world passport stamped the very same week.
Nevertheless, I was returned to JFK on the next plane! This just goes to show how arbitrary the whole visa process is.
Arthur and Melanie continued on to Lucknow to attend the conference. Fortunately, I had prepared a 97 page PowerPoint highlighting major developments of the World Government of World Citizens which I asked Arthur to present to the conference in my place. He did so, jointly with one of the students. He was also interviewed by numerous media outlets and spoke at the conference about my being rejected at the frontier.
Despite subsequent correspondence with the Indian Consulate in DC, with copies to Prime Minister Dr. Manhuman Singh and Ambassador Ronen Sen, the original World Passport, as of this writing, has not been returned to me.
This passport is mandated by article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, once issued, it becomes the personal property of its bearer thereby conforming to article 17 of the Declaration. "(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property." As of this date, the Government of India, which historically was the first to honor the UDHR by recognizing the World Passport, in now in violation of the said United Nations Declaration.
Here the Government of India, the heir to Mahatma Gandhi, who considered himself a world citizen, is capriciously rejecting a passport based on a human right to which the Indian government is itself legally bound both constitutionally and through its United Nations membership. At the same time, this government is embracing THE NUCLEAR BOMB thus imposing on each and every Indian citizen a state of humiliation and shame. Not only the sages of yore extolling wisdom through sacred texts like the Bhagavad Gita but today's gurus, swamis, bodisattvas and sadhus are demeaned and damned by this obscene and monstrous engine of total destruction in the hands of politicians whose behavior would certainly sadden Mahatma Gandhi if he were alive today. The innocent children of India exemplified by the CMS student body are being betrayed by their elders who are thrusting them into a world where a holocaust has become a psychotic component of national policy.
If the practice and tools of fundamental human rights are deemed "fraudulent," who then is the culprit, the accuser or the accused?
Arthur Kanegis taped an interview with the honorable Benjamin J. Odoki, Chief Justice of Uganda who was attending the Judicial summit. "When I heard that India had sent Garry Davis packing his bags back to the United States without attending the conference," the judge told the film producer, "I was saddened and disappointed because I was looking forward to his speech. When I heard him speak at previous judicial summits, I was amazed. Even though he is not a lawyer, he is a man with a new idea, a vision and a dream to change the world and make it one world, one citizenry."He added that "The judges attending the conference need to learn about this idea so they can persuade their governments to accept this World Passport so we can move freely throughout the world of brothers and sisters."
Raj Chandola, one of the organizers of the Judicial summit asked, "What possible threat to India could an 86-year-old World Citizen represent? Why did the Indian government spend its limited resources paying for a return ticket to force a man who came only to speak of peace in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi? This is not only a loss to our conference, but also to India and to the world."
Some time prior to the conference, I had "googled" a few of the speeches of India's new president, Madame Pratibha Devisingh Patil with the intention of presenting her also with an Honorary World Passport as I had with the first Prime Minister.
Some relevant quotes:
"In a globalized and inter-dependent world, the good of all becomes a common global endeavor. Our planet belongs to all of us and to sustain it as well as to preserve it for future generations requires action by all of us."
"I am reminded of the words of Swami Vivekananda, who said, and I quote, 'go from village to village, do good to humanity and to the world at large.' Similarly, cultural activities help youth to appreciate the richness and diversity of our culture and imbibe our age-old values of truth, tolerance and respect for all."
"Speaking about India's decision to join the Commonwealth, Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister, said in 1949 and I quote, 'it is necessary that we touch upon the world's problems, not with passion and prejudice. but in a friendly way and with a touch of healing.'"
Spoken like a true World Citizen. Spoken like a true World Citizen. Madame President met with the delegation of Supreme Court justices and lauded their efforts to promote a world in which global disputes are resolved in the courtroom, not on the battlefield But alas, I was not there. She was deprived of this important document and honor by the capricious actions of her own government.
So what to do with Madame President's honorary World Passport? Do I send it to her with a covering letter explaining why I am not there to deliver it in person? Do I skip over the thorny scanned visas question? Tell her that the document has been deemed "fraudulent" by her own officials despite its acceptance by the first Prime Minister? Laud her own global sentiments while deploring the nuclear policy of her government? Or simply throw it in the wastebasket?
In a larger framework, the history illustrates the dichotomy exposing the entire nation state world in which the content of a problem such as frontier constructs (borderlines) represent "degrees of difference...trapped along a scale closed by polar opposites at each end." (Meta Comment by cybernetician Stafford Beer). In other words, President Patil's one world philosophy and outlook are metalinguistic despite her sworn allegiance to the political and administrative content of an exclusive nation state which arbitrarily rejects a citizen totally dedicated to the wellbeing of humanity she herself promotes. This also serves to explains the contradiction between India's temporal allusion to democracy allied with the illusory nuclear security and its perennial, holistic wisdom heritage.
I’m constantly amazed at how things always seem to work out as if according to some divine plan. In perfect synchronicity, however, Dr. Evelin G. Lindner, Coordinator of the Tenth Annual Human DHS 2007 Workshop on "Humiliation and Violent Conflict" held at Teachers College of Columbia University on December 13-14th, had extended an invitation to me to participate prior to my Indian misadventure.
Upon my return from India-that is, from the "international territory" of New Delhi Airport-I emailed the author of Humiliation in a Globalizing World that I would be honored and delighted to attend such an unusual event since the Indian government had recently "humiliated" me--or was it my friends and fellow World Citizens at CMS not to mention the 84 Supreme Court justices? I penned some thoughts on this intriguing and utterly relevant subject to world citizenship and human rights and sent it along to Evelin who had also written that "In order to understand a globalizing world, we need 'global' research, as well as the participation of researchers who have a global outlook and global experience."
So although I was unable to present a World Passport to president Patel, I was able to present an honorary World Passport personally to this exemplary "global citizen" who created this extraordinary and timely workshop on the universal subject of humiliation as a precursor to conflict will be the subject of my next blog.
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