Monday, June 11, 2012

Gandhi and Lord Irwin talk man to man

Reading "Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power," a book written by Gene Sharp in 1960, I came across these gems:

"According to nationalist sources, from March 12, 1930 to March 5, 1931, 100,000 Indians had entered the numerous prisons, detention camps and improvised jails. A modest estimate shows that at least 17,000 of these prisoners were women."

This was during the height of the Noncooperation Movement in 1930-31, when Indian grassroots activism reached its apex. These arrests, detentions and imprisonments were going on at a time when Lord Irwin and Mahatma Gandhi were pursuing negotiations. The below lines offer a window into the relationship between these two men, and make one wonder if among the ranks of Chinese officials there might be a leader with a humanity approaching that of Lord Irwin.

"Lord Irwin and Gandhi met again on February 27th at 2:30pm. The discussions continued until late afternoon, when Gandhi was accustomed to eating. Mirabehn brought his dinner composed of forty dates and a pint of goat's milk. Gandhi ate them and the talks continued until 5:50 pm. That evening Gandhi walked unescorted five miles from Dr. Ansari's house where he was staying to the Viceregal palace to see Irwin again. He remained with him till after midnight, and Gandhi began his walk back. "Good night," he said to Irwin. "Good night, Mr. Gandhi, and my prayers go with you," Irwin replied. When Gandhi reached the dwelling it was past 2am and the Working Committee was waiting for him. The talks that day had been free, frank and friendly. Now things had to be considered by the Working Committee."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why Beijing has already lost

Every year, in the days leading up to June 4th, Chinese authorities have consistently banned the words ‘Tiananmen’ and ‘June 4′ – a place and a date. But this time around, the Chinese government has outdone itself. It went further, banning neutral words such as ‘square,’ and the numbers 6, 4, and 89. Not to mention images of candles.

When a government feels so existentially threatened by mere numbers, shapes and images, it has fundamentally lost its power and legitimacy. The Chinese authorities have gone nuts. And why shouldn’t they?

From Tunisia to Egypt to Burma, dictators are losing and democracy is gaining. This net growth in freedom worldwide is the most reliable indicator of where China too is headed. The more freedom grows around the world, the harder it gets for the remaining dictatorships and the leftover tyrants to survive.

That’s why Beijing is cracking down on its netizens, activists, and innocent citizens. That’s why it is escalating its repression in Tibet and East Turkestan. That’s why China’s internal security budget has surpassed its national defense budget. Like a wounded and dying tiger, it is making one last lunge for survival.

But if history holds any lesson, then the Chinese government’s days are numbered. The Chinese regime’s repressive streak – arresting people for the smallest of crimes, shooting at monks who are already burning, banning words and dates and even numbers – is reminiscent of the way the Soviet Union behaved in its final years, the way Milosevic behaved in his final months, and the way Mubarak and Ben Ali behaved in their final weeks.

This is the ultimate sign that the Chinese government has already been struck down in the great battle with freedom and democracy. It has no power, only the apparatus of power; it has no legitimacy, only the facade of legitimacy. Thus, it is only a matter of time before democracy comes to China, before freedom comes to Tibet.