Thursday, April 3, 2008

Aunts, Uncles and Tibet

Living in Mumbai, one forgets the extent to which Delhi is a hotbed of intellectual discussion. The Mumbai intellectual, by contrast, must be grateful for complex discourses like "dat fried fish was damn good men!" which, though clearly conceptualised and well-expressed, does not quite compete in the world of ideas.

One also forgets (in my case) that half my relatives live in Delhi. I was reminded of this when I opened an issue of The Week magazine a few days ago and read the following:

"There were divisions within the non-resident Tibetan population. The group opposed to the Dalai Lama has been more militant than the spiritual leader," said Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea of Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi.

Well the venerable Ms Bhattacharjea is none other than my dear Mira Masi, youngest sister of my late mother. Doubtless she had more to say on the topic (she usually does, on any topic and specially when it concerns China!). I should talk to her about it.

Now in the same week my cousin sent me this link: that points to the article "Genocide in Tibet, What The World Should Do?" which is described as "J.M. Mukhi's presentation at the Symposium organised by "Federation of Human Rights organisations in India" at a conference hall in Supreme Court, New Delhi on March 28th."

Mr J.M. Mukhi is my very own uncle Jai, younger brother of my late father. He is a very respected Delhi lawyer and I am always impressed by his erudition. While I don't always agree with his political views, here is one occasion when I do, quite strongly. So I am happy to recommend this article (to the few pathetic souls who, having no life worth living, end up reading my blog!).

1 comment:

Rahul said...

Well, Sunil, since the Tibet issue has been exercising your mind lately, rest assured
some of us in conservative Chennai are with you on this. As much as the Tibet issue, its the attitude of the Mahavishnu of Mount Road (aka The Hindu) towards the Tibet issue that has many of us seeing red (no pun intended).

A perfectly
reasonable letter to the Hindu by Ramachandra Guha, Shashi Tharoor,
Mukul Kesavan et al. on Tibet

evoked a storm of protest from Jayaraman and
numerous others all saying the same thing in almost the same words! It almost sounded as if it was solicited by the Hindu, considering there were almost no letters supporting the Guha letter!

The other interesting fact is that the Reader's Editor of this newspaper seems to be on the side of the

Notice that I have been singled out as one of the disruptive elements (dating from the Nandigram letter) though I suspect his sympathies lie more in our direction.

And finally, today Rajesh Gopakumar, Gautam Menon, Rukmini Dey and I sent off a letter to the Hindu -- but don't hold your breath to see it in print.

I am attaching it below in case someone is dying to read it - and since it has approximately zero probability of appearing in print!

(And here is the good news - we now have the TOI in Chennai so I can catch up on Aishwarya Rai's Karva Chauth and Britney Spears' latest marriage (or lack of it) and not bother with those pesky monks in Lhasa).


The recent exchange
of letters on the Hindu's Tibet policy seem to focus on the issue of
definitions of Tibet and TAR. Regardless of the merits of this
argument, it essentially clouds what is really the main issue behind the
protests and demonstrations. And
that is China's abysmal human rights record in dealing with dissident
activity - a subject the Hindu has seen fit to pass over lightly.

China has over the years, arrested dissidents, spread lies about the
Dalai Lama,
suppressed cultural and religious freedom for the Tibetans (even today
it is illegal in China to possess a picture of the Dalai Lama), to say
nothing of not choosing to exert its influence with the Sudanese
government to stem the civil war in Darfur. Despite the
promises made by China to the International Olympic Committee, freedom
of assembly and freedom of
expression remain distant dreams for all Chinese. Just recently, the
Chinese Government arrested Hu Jia, one of China's most prominent human
rights activist and sentenced him to three and a half years in prison
for criticising the Communist party in his writings (it would be
amusing, if it were not so tragic, to think that a law of this kind in
India would involve the imprisonment of the editors and owners of
virtually all newspapers, magazines and television news channels,
political bloggers, to say nothing of most of the letters writers to
these newspapers).

The Dalai Lama has, on more than one occasion, condemned the violence by
pro-Tibet demonstrators, has expressed his support for the Olympics in
China and for a long time now (since 1987), given up demands of independence
for Tibet, in exchange for genuine autonomy and the promise to preserve the
cultural and religious ethos of Tibet.

Decades of attempting to snuff out all forms of protest, whether
peaceful or otherwise merely results in a sudden explosion of violence,
as has been witnessed recently,
accompanied by even harsher crackdown by the Government - witness
Tiananmen Square and now the Chinese reaction to Tibetan protests all
over the world. A Government with the brutal suppression of Tiananmen
Square on its record can scarcely object when protests turn desperately
Democratic India's ability to absorb a 'million mutinies now' releases
the pressure valve that prevents such activity from spinning out of control.

The Hindu would do well to flesh out different viewpoints in this debate
and encourage debate and discussion between the Dalai Lama and the
Chinese Government, exactly what it has always advocated between the
Indian Government, Kashmiri separatists and Pakistani leaders, rather
than take a purely partisan one sided view of the issue by aligning
itself unquestioningly on the side of the Chinese Government. Surely it
cannot be the Hindu's case that it is alright for the Indian Government
to talk to the likes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani but not so for the Chinese
Government to talk to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Yours sincerely

Rahul Basu (Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai)
Gautam Menon (Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai)
Rajesh Gopakumar (Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad)
Rukmini Dey (Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad)