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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > March 22, 2008 > Callous Indifference to Struggle for Human Rights

Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 14

Callous Indifference to Struggle for Human Rights


Saturday 22 March 2008, by SC


Writing in the International Herald Tribune on the recent uprising in Tibet H.D.S. Greenway makes certain profound observations that offer considerable food for thought.

Recently I visited the Jokhang (Tibet’s most sacred shrine)... As folk from the countryside poured into Lhasa, and to other shrines in the post-harvest pilgrimage season, one sensed that all China’s attempts to crush Tibet’s Tantric Buddhist traditions, the destruction of its monasteries, the dispersal and imprisonment of its monks, the exile of its Dalai Lama, had failed. Buddhism remains undaunted in Tibet, and with it, as the Chinese always feared, the seeds of a resistance.

To be fair, China has tried to make amends, rebuilding the temples it destroyed, allowing more freedoms, many of which Hu initiated. But it is still illegal to display a photograph of the Dalai Lama, and one feels a sense of occupation and resentment, as one does in the West Bank. Like the West Bank, the occupying owner has tried to create new demographic realities on the ground. But instead of surrounding cities with settlements, China has simply turned Tibet’s towns into Chinese cities. Lhasa has now twice as many Han Chinese as Tibetans. But whereas Israel has come to contemplate, and even accept, the notion of losing its occupied lands, China decidedly has not.
The latest manifestation of the Tibetan people’s upsurge is intrinsically linked to their urge to restore human rights. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in his dignified statement issued on the occasion of the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan national uprising of 1959, pointed out without mincing words,
In Tibet, repression continues to increase with numerous, unimaginable and gross violation of human rights, denial of religious freedom and the politicisation of religious issues. All these take place as a result of the Chinese Government’s lack of respect for the Tibetan people.

A day after the protests broke out in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet as well as other regions of the country with sizeable Tibetan settlements, the spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs expressed the “hope that all those involved will work to improve the situation and remove the causes of such trouble in Tibet, which is an autonomous region of China, through dialgoue and non-violent means”. Implicit in this was the message to Beijing:
open talks with the Dalai Lama. But somehow what was lacking was a bold extension of solidarity with the movement for restoring Tibetan identity and human rights.

The overriding concern not to “offend” Beijing was also responsible for the high-handed response against Tibetans who wanted to march to China via Tibet from Dharamsala. This, as has been noted in several Indian publications, was totally uncalled for because it betrayed a kind of insensitivity to the agony of Tibetans living in exile in this country. It is in this context that the MEA’s decree—no “anti-China” activity will be permitted from Indian soil—has been roundly criticised as it smacks of authoritarianism. Conveying solidarity with a movement to restore human rights is the least that is expected of the world’s largest democracy. Instead it has openly exposed its callous indifference to such a movement by branding the Tibetan protests as “anti-Chinese” forgetting that these were a reaction to the Chinese authorities’ strong-arm methods to crush any step to express dissent and/or assert self-identity.

But this indifference on the part of South Block is nothing new. This was also seen last year when Myanmar’s military junta came down heavily to trample underfeet the Burmese monks’ unique pro-democracy movement in the streets of Rangoon.

One should not fail to underline that it was the same attitude which eventually forced Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen to tearfully leave this country which she till date calls her adopted homeland. Her unequivocal indictment of the powers-that-be at the Centre and in West Bengal for ensuring her exit from India by destroying her both mentally and physically exposes the state of Indian democracy under the present dispensation.
Unfortunately those in charge of running the Indian Government are not in a position to comprehend how much damage their actions are causing to the country’s image in the wide world.

March 20 S.C.

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