NEW DEHLI: A former US soldier who says he fought in the Vietnam War has torn up his passport and is asking India to grant him political asylum, reports said Saturday.
Jeff Knaebel, who has been living in the hill resort town of Shimla in northern India since 1995, appeared in India’s Supreme Court in New Delhi on Friday to seek asylum in the country. Knaebel, 72, said he is a champion of Indian freedom icon Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper. “I am stateless,” the daily quoted Knaebel as saying. Knaebel, who said he served as a US navy commander during the Vietnam War, said he wanted to remain in India to continue his “mission to bring a smile to every face I can.”
Known as “Sojourner Free” to friends, Knaebel said US political policies were based on war and destruction and “would one day destroy this beautiful planet.” He said he shredded his US passport in June 2009 at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Rajghat in New Delhi.
The Supreme Court directed the Attorney General G E Vahanvati to look into the matter. Knaebel’s lawyer, S N Jha, said he has filed the case in the Supreme Court after failing to get a response from the Indian Prime Minister’s Office to his client’s request for asylum.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.