NEW DELHI -- In a letter published by CatchNews, Jean Dreze, a Belgian-born Indian economist, describes how he was made to feel like a foreigner for the first time in four decades.
Dreze wrote about how he and his partner, Bela Bhatia, are being harassed by "some people," who have distributed a leaflet accusing them of being Naxalites, who are trying to "tear the country apart." He wrote about how they have raised slogans against Bela and tried to get the social activist evicted from her home in Bastar.
"Anyone who thinks that Bela and I are Naxalites is seriously out of touch with reality," he wrote.
The development economist, who was a member of the National Advisory Council under the United Progressive Alliance government, wrote about how Bela was "hounded" by police-sponsored groups such as Samajik Ekta Manch because she helped tribal women lodge a rape complaint against members of the security force.
Dreze's letter comes in the midst of growing concerns about a crackdown on journalists, activists, and scholars, who question how the security forces combat the Naxal insurgency.
Hindi-language journalists, Deepak Jaiswal and Prabhat Singh, were arrested in the course of a week, earlier this month. Somaru Nag and Santosh Yadav, two other Bastar-based journalists, were arrested in July and September, last year.
"I am a development economist associated with Ranchi University and the Delhi School of Economics. I live in Ranchi, but I come to Bastar from time to time to spend time with Bela. Most of my work is concerned with hunger, poverty, education, health and other aspects of social policy. I am a close colleague of Amartya Sen, Angus Deaton, Nicholas Stern and other economists who should be sent to jail if I am a Naxalite, according to the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.
According to the leaflet mentioned earlier, I am a "foreign agent" (videshi dalal). In fact, I am an Indian citizen and I have spent more time in India than many of those who were distributing this leaflet yesterday. I love this country, where I have friends from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. In thirty-seven years of living in India, I have not faced hostility even once - until yesterday."- Jean Dreze in CatchNews.
Read the full letter at CatchNews.
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