NEW DELHI, India, Sept. 8, Reuter; Indian postman might be forgiven for believing that Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson lives in India.

For weeks they have been delivering thousands of letters addressed to him in 11 cities across India, sent by Indians angered by allegations that Sweden’s Bofors arms company bribed their government,

Curt postcards demand the ‘names of officials who supposedly received kickbacks, Long hand ‘Written letters express admiration for Swedish traditions and shock at the bribery reports.

Carlsson’s bulging postbag is a response to a campaign launched by Arun Shourie, Editor In Chief ‘of the Indian Express Newspaper.

‘The Express, a bitter critic of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s ‘government was the target of police raids at its branch offices last week, me Police said they were investigating foreign exchange violations but the Paris based International Federation of Newspaper Publishers accused Indian authorities of trying to terrorize its critics into silence.

Shourie suggested in a column ‘on August 2 that people write to Carlsson and send the letters to any of the 11 offices of the newspaper, which forwards them to the ‘Swedish Embassy in New Delhi.

More than 30,000 letters, have since poured in to the Express’s offices in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Cochin, Delhi, Hyderabad, Madras, Madurai, Vijaywada and Vizianagaram.

The letters protest at reports that Bofors, a private sector company, paid 40 million dollars in irregular commissions or kickbacks to clinch a 1.2 billion dollar sale of 155 mm Howitzers to the Indian army.

Most letters are addressed to “His Excellency, the Prime Minister of Sweden, c/o Indian Express”.

Shourie, knowing Indians are ‘not habitual letter writers, suggested that protestors follow a simple, standard format. But the public’s response surprised him,

“Two thirds of the writers wrote their own letters”, he told Reuters. Some write three or four pages.

  1. Shreedbar from Kohlapur in Maharashtra State, wrote (0 Carlsson: “I am addressing this letter with a great deal of anguish, anguish shared by a wide section of Indians who have a firm faith in the democratic set up.

This faith is being shattered from the time we learnt of the Bofors scandal involving your country”.

News of supposed Bofors payoffs was broken last April by ‘Swedish government radio. It was instantly denied by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s movement.

Buta probe by Sweden’s Audit Bureau confirmed the arms makers made unexplained payments of 40 million dollars to secret Swiss bank accounts,

Its report to the Indian government deleted the names of the recipients,

‘This added to Gandhi’s embarrassment and fuelled a strident ‘opposition campaign charging him with corruption.

Housewife P. Lakshmi Venugoppalan wrote to Carlsson from Walair, South India: “It would help the Indian electorate go about its business if the deleted portions of the Swedish Audit Burau’s report ‘on Bofors dealings with the present Indian government is released to the press.

K.Rangaranjan from Calicut in Kerala state told the Swedish leader that his government was “knowingly” or “unknowingly” shielding the corrupt persons.

1G, Kalyankary of Delhi wrote that he had lost faith in the Indian government and now looked to Sweden to clear up the confusion.

Shourie said letters were streaming in from students, doctors, retiedidefence personnel and employees of public section companies, some of whom he said risked their jobs by writing.

Sharad Joshi, a farmworkers’ leader, has decided to launch his own campaign by seeking 100,000 signatures for a petition demanding identification of those paid by Bofors.

The petition will be addressed to former Indian Defense Miniser, Viswanath Pratap Singh.

Joshi and his followers believe that Singh, an anticorruption crusader sacked by Gandhi, should disclose any names he knows.

The Swedish Ambassador, ‘Axel Edelstam, and other officials refused to discuss the letters and it was not clear whether they were being forwarded to Stockholm.

Under Swedish law all letters to the Prime Minister, except those dealing with State security and relations with foreign governments, must be kept in a public register.

Article extracted from this publication >>  September 11, 1987