Chinese democracy, Indian autocracy

What rights do a people, who have been dispossessed of their land for half a century and live in another country, have? This must be the question Tibetans must be asking themselves in the wake of Chinese premier Hu Jintao’s visit to India.

Ever since China’s brutal invasion and occupation of Tibet in 1959 India has hosted the largest community of Tibetan exiles including their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. They have lived here for three generations and the younger members have no living memory of Tibet, except for their parents tales of it, and a nostalgic yearning for a lost homeland. Every time a Chinese official visits India the Tibetans have organized protests demanding freedom for Tibet. This time too the Tibetans geared up to greet Hu with protests and sit ins. But the Indian government took no chances and muzzled their protests. Tibetans were placed under preventive custody and those who actually protested were arrested and whisked away.

The Tibetans have a right to protest and express their grievances in public spaces. Especially since China is still continuing with its brutal occupation of Tibet and has reduced the Tibetans to a minority in their own land by encouraging Han Chinese to migrate there. Tibetan culture has been brutally suppressed in the name of development and China has arrested thousands of Tibetans.

But surely India is a more politically open country. Or is it? If Tibetans are Indian citizens (and most of them are) they should be able to express their dissent. It is guaranteed by the constitution. But the government, perhaps not wanting to displease the Chinese, muzzled the rights of the Tibetans. Let us remember that China is an aggressive nation that has border disputes with all its neighbours. It has claimed Arunachal Pradesh on the spurious grounds that a Panchen Lama was born there and until recently refused to recognize Sikkim as a part of India and they still hold parts of Kashmir. Going by the same logic my great grand uncle’s nephew was born in Beijing, so I will claim Beijing as a part of India! Ridiculous.

I wonder what it must feel like not to belong. Not knowing your own country. Knowing that your land and people are not free. Knowing that there is no hope of returning to it. Despite celebrity endorsement, the “Free Tibet” movement is a lost cause (at least for the time being) caught as it is between the cleft stick of a pacifist Dalai Lama and an increasingly restless younger generation. Despite Richard Gere lending it charm and sex appeal, which country has dared to challenge China on its occupation or human rights record in Tibet? Countries and corporations will put economics before human dignity because all want a piece of the Chinese economic miracle.

Till now the Tibetan community in India was secure in the knowledge that this country was a democracy where rights were by and large respected. That confidence will be just a wee bit shaken now.

2 responses to “Chinese democracy, Indian autocracy”

  1. Anil says:

    True, as the world races and bends over backwards to do business with China (as well as India) such issues as freedom for the Tibetans will be swept under the carpet. Alas, such is the nature of this world. Only money and power speak.

  2. tushar says:

    Such mundane things as freedom, democracy and human rights are sacrified at the alter of greed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *