Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

An Indian campaign for an Iranian scholar

The Iranian scholar, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, who studied with me at Columbia University in New York in the 1990s, was arrested by the authorities last month in Tehran. Kian and I had stayed in touch over the years and I spent a pleasant evening with him in Tehran this February discussing everything under the sun but especially his ongoing work on urban local government in Iran and the danger posed to Iran and the Middle East by the Bush administration’s policies and actions.

Though his one-time affiliation with the Soros Foundation is likely being held against him, I can state with complete confidence that Dr. Tajbakhsh is an Iranian patriot and is as opposed to the U.S. policy of “regime change” as any self-respecting Iranian. Most of all, I find it impossible to believe he could be involved in any attempt to subvert the Islamic Republic of Iran.

A number of us in India who know him well had written to the Iranian ambassador in Delhi last month urging his release. Now that he has been in jail for over a month, we decided to hand over a letter with the signature of over 150 prominent Indian artists, writers, Shia clreics and public figures — all friends and well-wishers of Iran — calling for Dr. Tajbakhsh’s release on humanitarian grounds.

15 June 2007
The Hindu

Prominent artists, intellectuals, public figures urge release of Iranian scholar

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: More than 150 prominent Indian artists, intellectuals and public figures have written to the Iranian authorities seeking immediate release of jailed scholar Kian Tajbakhsh.

Arrested on May 11, Dr. Tajbakhsh is one of the four Iranians with dual American nationality who have been charged with working to undermine the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He lived in India in the 1990s and is well known in academic and cultural circles here.

In the letter, which was handed over to Iranian Charge d’Affaires Reza Alaei on Thursday, the signatories expressed deep concern at the incarceration of Dr. Tajbakhsh. While recognising Iran’s “sovereign right to secure itself against any perceived threat to its welfare and safety,” they described the imprisoned scholar as a “man of integrity and an Iranian patriot incapable of indulging in `espionage’ against his country.”

India a friend

India, the letter notes, is a friend of the Islamic Republic of Iran. “Those of us from India — academics, artists, intellectuals, journalists, professionals and the most respected Shia leaders — calling upon your Government to release Dr. Tajbakhsh are all friends of Iran and of the Iranian people. Many of us have taken public stand against the American-led `global war on terror’ and against its hegemonic agenda of `regime change’ in Iran or elsewhere,” it says.

The signatories include Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Sadiq; writers Khushwant Singh, Arundhati Roy, Dilip Chitre and Gulzar; journalists Saeed Naqvi, Tarun Tejpal, Farah Naqvi, Siddharth Varadarajan and Praful Bidwai; artists Tyeb Mehta and Jehangir Sabavala; filmmakers Saeed Mirza and Govind Nihalani and academics Achin Vanaik, Nivedita Menon and Anuradha Chenoy.
Personal plea

“Whatever be the nature of the questioning that Dr. Tajbakhsh must undergo, surely it can happen outside the prison walls,” the letter states.

“We take this occasion to make a personal plea to your Government on humanitarian grounds. Dr. Tajbakhsh and his wife are expecting their first child a few months from now. The stress and strain of his imprisonment can only harm the health of both mother and child,” it adds.

List of Signatories

1. Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, Lucknow
2. Khushwant Singh, Eminent Writer, Delhi
3. Saeed Naqvi, Senior Journalist, Delhi
4. Tarun J. Tejpal, Editor-in-chief, Tehelka, Delhi
5. Arundhati Roy, Eminent Writer, Delhi
6. Gulzar, writer, poet, filmmaker, Mumbai
7. Tyeb Mehta, eminent artist, Mumbai
8. Sakina Mehta, Mumbai
9. Jehangir Sabavala, eminent artist, Mumbai
10. Saeed Mirza, filmmaker, Mumbai
11. Siddharth Varadarajan, Associate Editor, The Hindu, New Delhi
12. Govind Nihalani, filmmaker, Mumbai
13. Jennifer Mirza, film producer, Mumbai
14. Dr. Achin Vanaik, Professor, International Relations & Global Politics, Delhi University
15. Dr. Aditya Nigam, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
16. Dr. Anuradha Chenoy, Professor, School of International Studies, JNU, Delhi
17. Bina Sarkar Ellias, Editor, Gallerie Publishers, Mumbai
18. Dr. Deepak Mehta, Dept of Sociology, Delhi University
19. Farah Naqvi, Independent Writer, Delhi
20. Dr. Farida Khan, Professor, Jamia Milia Islamia University, Delhi
21. Harsh Sethi, Consulting Editor, Seminar, Delhi
22. Jamal Kidwai, Director, Aman Trust, Delhi
23. Kai Friese, Editor, Outlook Traveler Magazine, Delhi
24. Dr. Kamal Chenoy, Professor, School of International Studies, JNU, Delhi
25. Dr. Madhulika Banerjee, Dept of Political Science, Delhi University
26. Nandini Mehta, Features Editor, Outlook Magazine, Delhi
27. Dr. Nivedita Menon, Dept of Political Science, Delhi University
28. Praful Bidwai, Columnist, Frontline, Delhi
29. Dr. Radhika Chopra, Dept of Sociology, Delhi University
30. Rajan Prasad, Sahmat, Delhi
31. Yogendra Yadav, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
32. Satyajit Mayor, Professor, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore
33. Dr. Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
34. Narendra Kumar, Publisher and Educationist, Delhi
35. Mollica Dastidar, Independent Academic, Delhi
36. S.P Srivastava, former Indian Revenue Service Officer, Delhi
37. Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad, Delhi
38. Uma Chakravarti, Historian, Delhi University
39. Gautam Vohra, DRAG, Delhi
40. Dr. K.S Subramanian, IPS (retd), Delhi
41. K.B. Dayani, CEO Industrial Management Academy, Delhi
42. Girijesh Pant, Professor, JNU, Delhi
43. Jawed Naqvi, Columnist, Delhi
44. Rafeeq Ellias, Photographer/filmmaker, Mumbai
45. Shirin Sabavala, Mumbai
46. George Jose, consultant, Asia Society Centre in India, Mumbai
47. Madhushree Dutta, Executive Director, Majlis, Centre for Rights Discourse & Multicultural Art Initiatives, Mumbai
48. Prabodh Parekh, Director, Katha Centre for Film Studies, Mumbai
49. Sabrina Buckwalter, Correspondent, Times of India newspaper, Mumbai
50. Mona Seervai, Principal, Bombay International School, Mumbai
51. Ritu Menon, Publisher, Women Unlimited, New Delhi
52. Shobha Vishwanath, Publisher, Karadi, Chennai
53. Padmini Mirchandani, Publishing Director, India Book House, Mumbai
54. Mohammed Khan, Chairman, Bates Enterprise, Mumbai
55. Tom Alter, actor and writer, Mumbai
56. Kalpana Sharma, ex-bureau chief and writer, The Hindu, Mumbai
57. Arvind Krishnaswamy, Chief Executive, Bharat Petroleum, Mumbai
58. R. Sriram, co-founder of Crossword Books, Mumbai
59. K. Anita, co-founder of Crossword Books, Mumbai
60. Kalpana Shah, Director, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
61. Atul Dodiya, artist, Mumbai
62. Indira Chandrashekhar, Publisher, Tulika Publishers, New Delhi
63. Anju Dodiya, artist, Mumbai
64. Sudeep Sen, poet, New Delhi
65. Rekha Rodwittiya, artist, Baroda
66. Surendran Nair, artist, Baroda
67. Manisha Gera Baswani, artist, New Delhi
68. Sarnath Bannerji, graphic novelist and artist, New Delhi
69. Bani Abidi, artist, New Delhi
70. Manisha Parekh, artist, New Delhi
71. Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker, Mumbai
72. Rahul Baswani, YPO, New Delhi
73. Kahini Arte, painter, Mumbai
74. Visha Sushde Mehta, Producer, Music Productions, Mumbai
75. Richard Waswo, photographer & writer, Udaipur
76. Sharmishtha Ray, artist and writer, Mumbai
77. Sampurna Chatterji, poet, Mumbai
78. Manjari Chaturvedi, Kathak danceuse, New Delhi
79. Amit Mehra, photographer, New Delhi
80. Priya Sarukkai Chhabria, poet and writer, Pune
81. Nandini Bhaskaran Jal, writer, Mumbai
82. Brinda Chudassama, artist, Mumbai
83. Dilip Chitre, writer and poet, Pune
84. Ranjit Hoskote, writer and poet, Mumbai
85. Nancy Adajania, writer, Mumbai
86. Christopher Samuel, Managing Director, Madison Pr
87. Pranab K. Das, architect, Mumbai
88. Sen Kapadia, architect, Mumbai
89. Vaishaili Bannerji, CEO, Platinum, Mumbai
90. Sudhir Patwardhan, artist, Mumbai
91. Gieve Patel, artist, writer, poet, Mumbai
92. Mehlli Gobhai, artist, Mumbai
93. Meera Devidayal, artist, Mumbai
94. Mortimer Chatterji, gallerist and writer, Mumbai
95. , anthropologist, Mumbai
96. Dolly Thakore, theatre person, Mumbai
97. Tushar Joag, artist, Mumbai
98. Bhagwat Devidayal, Proprietory Business, Mumbai
99. Vinod Shetty, lawyer, Mumbai
100. Mahendra Sinh, photographer, Mumbai
101. Jeroo Mulla, head of department, Sophia Polytechnic College, Mumbai
102. Pallu Newatia, Icecube Film Productions, Mumbai
103. Kekoo Gandhi, gallerist, Mumbai
104. Khorshed Gandhi, gallerist, Mumbai
105. Puja Kshatriya, artist, Mumbai
106. Shireen Gandhi, gallerist, Mumbai
107. Jitish Kalat, artist, Mumbai
108. Reena Kalat, artist, Mumbai
109. Yuki Ellias, theatre actor, Mumbai
110. Shilpa Gupta, artist, Mumbai
111. Anu Tandon, theatreperson, Mumbai
112. Khushboo Mody, designer, Mumbai
113. James Fereira, designer, Mumbai
114. Anuradha Dev Benegal, architect, Mumbai
115. Dev Benegal, filmmaker, Mumbai
116. Khushro Patel, Proprietor, Jak Printers, Mumbai
117. Debjani Chatterji, teacher, Mumbai
118. Chiru Mazumdar, artist, Mumbai
119. Shivmeet Deol, student, Mumbai
120. Manisha Bhattacharya, studio potter, New Delhi
121. Baruna Bhattacharya, art writer, Kolkata
122. Leena Kejriwal, photographer, Kolkata
123. Pradip Raman, lawyer, Mumbai
124. Dr. Anuradha Krishnamurthy, Pathologist, Mumbai
125. Celine D’Cruz, Representative, Slum Development International, Mumbai
126. Namita Devidayal, Correspondent, Times of India
127. Meher Rafat, member of NGO, Cleanair, Mumbai
128. Sanjay Divecha, musician, Mumbai
129. Nishit Mehta, musician, Mumbai
130. Mohana Dutt, retd school teacher, Mumbai
131. Shanta Gokhale, writer, Mumbai
132. Neel Chatterji, film curator/writer Osian-Fest, New Delhi
133. Firdausi Jussawala, marketing & sales director, retd, Air India, Mumbai
134. Darryl D’Monte, environmentalist, Mumbai
and many others

Text of Letter

Mr. Reza Alaei
Charge d’Affaires
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
New Delhi

Date: June 14th, 2007

Ref: Continued Incarceration of Iranian scholar Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh

Dear Mr. Alaei:

This follows our earlier letter dated May 29, 2007, handed over to Mr. Saeid Asadi, Second Secretary (Press & Public Relations), expressing our deep concern at the incarceration of our friend and colleague Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh in Tehran and urging your government to release him. (A copy of that letter is attached)

Despite an assurance of communication given to us by Mr. Asadi, there has been no news or response from your Embassy regarding Dr. Tajbakhsh’s wellbeing or release.

We recognize that it is your Government’s sovereign right to secure itself against any perceived threat to its welfare and safety. We also respect the pressures under which the Islamic Republic of Iran is operating, for these are difficult times not only for your country but indeed, for all peace loving citizens of the world. And when global battle-lines are drawn in this manner, suspicion rather than trust becomes the prevailing norm. However, even in these difficult times we urge your Government to recognize the difference between friend and foe.

India is a friend of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Those of us from India – academics, artists, intellectuals, journalists, professionals and the most respected Shia leaders – calling upon your Government to release Dr. Tajbakhsh are all friends of Iran and of the Iranian people. Many of us have taken public stands against the American led ‘global war on terror’ and against its hegemonic agenda of ‘regime change’ in Iran or elsewhere.

When voices like ours throw themselves behind a campaign to release Dr. Tajbakhsh from an unjust incarceration, we do expect a favorable hearing. When people like us are willing to stake our credibility to vouch for Dr. Tajbakhsh as a man of integrity and an Iranian patriot incapable of indulging in ‘espionage’ against his country, our voices, the voices of friends, should count for something within higher echelons of the Iranian Government. We respectfully request you to communicate this to Tehran.

As you can see from the number of prominent Indians who have come forward to sign this letter, a campaign against the continued incarceration of Dr. Tajbakhsh is gaining momentum in India and in other parts of the world. While we are happy that this is so, we are also aware that the existence of such a campaign will become an effective tool of propaganda in the hands of those who do not wish Iran well. We certainly do not want this to happen any more than you do.

We urge you to release Dr. Tajbakhsh from incarceration. Whatever be the nature of the questioning that Dr. Tajbakhsh must undergo, surely it can happen outside prison walls. We take this occasion to make a personal plea to your Government on humanitarian grounds. Dr. Tajbakhsh and his wife are expecting their first child a few months from now. The stress and strain of Dr. Tajbakhsh’s imprisonment can only harm the health of both mother and child. We hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran will show itself to be a kind and caring nation and, on these grounds alone, allow Dr. Tajbakhsh to reunite with his wife and family at this time.

We once again look forward to an appropriate response from your Government.

Yours Sincerely,

14 comments on “An Indian campaign for an Iranian scholar

  1. Rådgivende ingeniørfirma
    September 2, 2009

    This is a nice and great article. Thank you for your beautiful post. Keep up the good work.

  2. chandruvee
    August 28, 2007

    I do read and admire Siddharth’s writings. I do not agree with what he writes or that of his newspaper but The Hindu is perhaps one of rare newspapers which one can actually read for the depth and width of the coverage it provides.

  3. Siddharth Varadarajan
    July 23, 2007

    Dear Ninad/Ananya,Send me a private mail and I would be happy to answer any questions you have that are not related to this specific posting.There is no point cluttering the comment section of the blog with material that is irrelevant.I hope you understand.

  4. Anonymous
    July 16, 2007

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. the sane
    July 15, 2007

    Thanx to the intenet that one gets to know the true colors of these ’eminents’.Thanks a ton.

  6. Anonymous
    July 13, 2007

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Dan
    July 8, 2007

    The tone of the letter betrays the awe of the so called “eminent” persons towards the paradise mullocracy. Perusing the letter, one is left wondering what the purpose of writing the letter actually is! At one point the authors of the letter acknowledge the “pressures under which the Islamic Republic” operates and go on to add that “these are difficult times” not only for the Mullocracy but also for “all peace loving citizens of the world”. I guess that “peace loving citizenry” would ,however, exclude the populations of Iraq, Lebanon and Israel who live under the constant terror of “brave phreedom phighters” aided, abetted and vetted by the theocratic magnificence of the Islamic Republic!It is rather sad that the credentials of the authors as friends of the mullocracy has to be guaged by their anti-American stand on everything under the sun; or is it a pointer to the intellectual maturity of both the senders as well as the intended recipients?Varadarajan has been a strong advocate of Iran’s clandestine nuclear program; although for some mysterious reasons best known to him he insists on calling it ‘peaceful’.Maybe it’s time that he and his ilk ask the mullocracy for some favour in return for playing willful idiots! After all, the mullocracy can do with the good wills of self-proclaimed NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS and intellectuals once it is called to account for it’s actions.

  8. Anonymous
    July 2, 2007

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. The sane
    July 2, 2007

    The chicken are coming home to roost,for the leftists and the liberals.I was amused by the servile tone of the letter.It almost read like: Please,please.We liberals have been trying to tell the Indians how evil the US is and how noble the Iranian mullah leadership is,day in and day out,thorough the Indian media.How could you do this ?We understand why you choose to be tough but please think of us.How will we look before the Indians,at least some of them are begining to alternate source of news and more importanlty,starting to THINK.For allah’s sake,please do not do that.Boo-hoo……

  10. Anonymous
    July 2, 2007

    Well done Varadarajan. It is glad to hear that some one from The Hindu is fighting for freedom and Justice. I wonder whether you will spend some time to write something on Anna Politkovskaya’s death in Russia. Is it allowed in your paper?

  11. Anonymous
    June 29, 2007

    Thank you so much for posting this and for all your efforts on Kian’s behalf. His friends and family here in New York have been moved and heartened by the displays of solidarity from Kian’s friends and colleagues in South Asia.-The Free Kian Campaign

  12. Anonymous
    June 28, 2007

    What a shame sidd your paper is arguing the Pratiba Patel as if the contest was already finished. Does your paper think Indians are idiots (those of people you see in the letters column, desperate to support the The Hindu’s editorial to get their name published in the paper). Does your paper think that people donot read the edits from other papers. See in this morning’s Breking News column, a link to the editorial has been attached. What a shame on you guys. Desperate to counter the allegation with the help of ‘India’s National Newspaper’See the link to actual allegations:

  13. Anonymous
    June 26, 2007

    As the CPM has strongly criticised the proposed visit of Nimitz, you can expect your editor to come up with an editorial on this soon. Also see the critical letters you would see in the ratio of 1000:1 (1 supporting letter for every 1000 opposing the visit). You should be ashamed to work in such a paper with ‘high integrity’. Sidd, it is high time you jumped the ship like Rajamohan.

  14. Anonymous
    June 26, 2007

    But this is the regime you are batting for Sidd, be it the issue of nuclear enrichment or Indo-Iran gas pipeline construction. Can we now believe that now the article has been published in India’s “NATIONAL NEWSPAPER” by India’s Western returned anti-imperialist Siddhardh Varadarajan, the mullahs in Iran would realise him immediately. If you thought an article in The Hindu was going to make an impact in realising Dr Kian, then you are mistaken. When it comes to dealing with anti-democratic regimes like Iran, only the West is in a position to deal with them. See how Serbia has been transformed into pieces in the last ten years.

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This entry was posted on June 15, 2007 by in Iran.



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