Thursday, April 17, 2008

Torture Relay: The Delhi Farce

Well, its gone off without a hitch according to the very silly, preening Suresh Kalmadi. Of course no one wants to remind him of exactly "what" it was that went off without a hitch.

Lets see: 15000 armed paramilitary sealing off central Delhi to protect the torch of shame being paraded through 2.3 kilometres of a barren Rajpath. Yes, that did go off without a hitch, if we forget the following:

1. The absurd spectacle of a single Tibetan protester trying to unfurl the Tibetan national flag being bundled off by twelve or fourteen policemen.

2. The Rajyasabha not being able to reconvene after lunch as the MPs were unable to reach the Parliament building.

3. Cost to taxpayer - in loss of working hours, funding for an extra Republic Day security etc - ABSURD.

4. The sickening spectacle of Chinese national flags being waved at India Gate, with the farcical Olympic cauldron hiding the far more significant Amar Jawan Jyoti. But then perhaps we should not expect the party of the Emergency, Bofors scams, missing PoWs, to care for the dignity of the fallen soldier.

So while Suresh Kalmadi claims that the world was watching and he has ensured that we have not been embarrassed, guess what? Things looks quite different from beyond his tunnel-of-shame vision. The image of the Chinese embassy surrounded by rolls of barbed wire makes a stronger visual point of that country's oppressive nature.

And after the farcical relay in Delhi, the only place for the "sacred" Olympic flame (any ideas why a regime that prosecutes all religion suddenly is talking of sacred anything?) is a government provided cage, one that replicates the brutality of the Chinese state, and ironically reinforces the point that the Beijing torch symbolizes imprisonment, oppression, lack of freedom.

A word of thanks to all those who refrained from participating in the relay: Bhaichung Bhutia especially deserves a salute from all those who believe in the freedom of conscience. Kelly Dorjee whose gentle statements revealed not only the immense compassion of Buddhism but also an intense belief in individual freedom of expression that a democracy guarantees. And of course, to that old warrior - George Fernandes - who continues steadfastly to fight for a cause that much of the world has forgotten.

Finally, our immense gratitude is due to the Tibetan exiles in India. They followed the directive from their leader to not embarrass their hosts - us, Indians - by engaging in violence. The Delhi protests were peaceful and heart-wrenching, all the more powerful as symbolic acts of conscience as they contrasted with the massive machinery of the state guarding the torch of shame.

This has been a day of moral victories indeed - for the Tibetans who continue to struggle for their freedom, and for us Indians who asserted our right to satyagraha and democracy despite the cupidity of our leaders. And it has been a day of shame for our leaders who would do well to heed the message of on banners today: Azad Tibet, Surakshit Bharat!

Jai Bharat! Jai Tibet!

Stop the Torture Relay: Its not just Tibet, its all of us!

As the old line goes, its time for all good men to come to the aid of their party!

Lets see what we have by means of trouble: Our snivelling quisling lot in government have - not surprisingly - bent over backwards to accomodate Chinese authoritarianism.

Our defense minister who can only cringe and cower when he informs the parliament of the number of Chinese incursions into our national territory finds the strength and courage to roar when he has to "warn" the Dalai Lama that "he is a guest."

The grand signora of Indian polity who evokes the ghost of the familial past has conveniently forgotten the legacy of her grandfather-in-law and chosen the most ignonimous moment in the career of her cherished mum-in-law. Under her direct command, the political party that had illustriously revoked the Fundamental Rights of the Indian Citizen back in 1975 has chosen to show its courage to do the same again. As we go into the day of the torture relay through Delhi, the Himalayan states bordering China have had basic rights to public gathering circumscribed by our Emergency-backing weaklings.

Just so there is no doubt - these are the very states whose parts are claimed by China as "inalienably" theirs. What happens next? Does the UPA coalition surrender Arunachal, Sikkim, Siachin and Uttarakhand to China in order to keep "prosperity, peace and economic development" in Delhi? Where does Tibet end and India begin? How far backwards shall our government bend in order to please a murderous, oppressive regime?

This is no longer about Tibet or the Tibetans - who, just for the record, have shown their gratitude in blood, by fighting India' wars, right from 1971 through to the Operation Blue Star and Kargil. This is about all of us!

A little lesson in history: There was a time not too long ago that the freedom of public assembly had been revoked, alongside freedom to express dissent. That was during the colonial era. And when that ruling against public gathering was threatened, a massacre followed. The Jallianwala Bagh!

Is that how far we have come? Is that all our ancestors fought for? So that the freedoms we inherited could be circumscribed at will by the very leaders who claim to uphold the legacy of Gandhi and Nehru?

It is time to remind the deluded denizens of 7 Race Course - along with his master-handler at 10 Janpath - and their Bengali Communist moshai facilitators, that the legacy of Gandhi/Nehru remains. And it is not locked in with the power-hungry delusional handful who claim the surnames but rather those who live and cherish the principles of participative democracy.

It is time tomorrow for India to show its colours - democratic, free, rich with the legacy of political action. If you are in India, if you are in Delhi, go stand in support of the freedom torch. Go demonstrate against the torture relay. This is not about Tibet. Its about all of us. To ensure that the party that claims it brought us freedom does not sell our liberties to an authoritarian - albeit prosperous - neighbour.

Jai Bharat! Jai Tibet!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Torture Relay: Taking Apart Some Spurious Arguments

While Beijing has succeeded in stage-managing enough happy photo-ops for the Olympic torture relay, the tamasha has neither ended, nor has the issue been addressed. The apologists for China are already claiming that “pushing it into a corner” will yield no results. These are the same sages who claimed that “rewarding” China by handing it the Olympics would incentivize the genocidal nuts leading the country to improve their human rights records and provide greater freedoms to its citizenry. It’s a bit like using the Olympics to incentivize Hitler into not building gas chambers!!!

In the past few weeks, I have had lots of emails telling me that “sports should not be politicized.” Should not be? Which planet do these people live on? Sports have ALWAYS been political and none more so than the Olympics.

One of the vocal supporters of the current torture relay has been Siegfried Eifrig, who even at the ripe old age of 98 has been granting TV interviews arguing that “sports should not be political.” Bet few of us remember Mr. Eifrig’s illustrious past.

Eifrig is the “Aryan ideal” who ran the last stretch of the very first Olympic torch relay for the 1936 Berlin games. Photographs and the creepily memorable Leni Reifenstahl film show Eifrig proudly bearing the torch through Berlin streets lined with innumerable Nazi flags and cheering brown shirts. Makes me wonder how photographs of Ravi Shastri bearing the Beijing torch shall be viewed by generations that follow us!

Lets be honest here, the Olympics are not about sports but nationalistic pride. That is why the medal tallies are sorted by nation-states and not individual sportspeople or events. Moreover, the moment a sportsperson puts on the national uniform to compete in ANY sports (yes, this includes cricket!), they are no longer some idealised apolitical apogee of physical prowess. Wearing a uniform means that they are no different from soldiers of a nation-state Albeit, of course, less violent!

So lets have no more spurious discussion of how the Olympics are apolitical. Or indeed how rewarding a murderous, brutal, oppressive regime will somehow incentivize it to changing its policies. NO dictator in history has ever been rewarded into benevolence. And so will be the case with China.

Lets make sure that the torture relay gets the “tunnel of shame” it deserves.
Jai Bharat! Jai Tibet!