Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Power of the Powerless

I cannot write as well as Jamyang Norbu can.

I wrote a letter in reply to something he wrote and wanted to stick it here for all of us to read, but it would not make sense without a backdrop.  

JN writes at the end of the year, Jan 4, 2011 is the post date I think...

It’s almost the end of the year now, and nearly two months since Aung San Suu Kyi was released, but I haven’t quite gotten over the dopamine rush of that event. I’ve been waiting a long time to see her a free woman. Not as single-mindedly and passionately, to be sure, as her loyal Burmese followers, but waiting, nonetheless, with some anxiety but also with a conviction of sorts, that she would be able to tough it out. That she would never ever give in to the junta, and one day they would have to let her go. Just like that.

So when I saw the video of her first appearance before her followers, I expected to feel lofty and profound emotions. But all I found myself doing was worrying that she might injure herself, or at least cut her fingers on the wicked looking spikes on top of the closed gate of the compound where she had been confined. She was behind the gate but someone had put a table or something for her to stand on, so you could see her quite clearly. She was smiling but those damned spikes were getting in her way. At one point she even rested her forearms on them. Then someone from the crowd handed up a bouquet of flowers. She tied a spray to her hair, it might have been her trademark jasmine. Whatever it was, it did the trick for me. All was right with the world.

When the first signs appeared that Suu Kyi would be released, but before the experts could hold forth on the possible reasons behind the junta’s motives for freeing her, quite a few reports (The New York Times, the BBC, The Inquirer.com, etc) pressed into service the convenient phrase “the power of the powerless” to provide at least a broad, partial explanation of why Suu Kyi had prevailed over her captors. Ambiguous as the explanation was it was certainly not incorrect. When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 (accepted by her son, Alexander) the Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Francis Sejested, had described Suu Kyi as “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless”.  Read more.

Kate Saunders of ICT wrote in reply over at Huffington Post.

Interesting and thought-provoking, but Jamyang Norbu is wrong (not for the first time) about the International Campaign for Tibet. Yes, the Clinton Administration mounted a campaign for permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), and even some prominent supporters of Tibet embraced this position. ICT opposed it. The term “constructive engagement ” as applied to US-China relations was a construct adopted by the Clinton Administration. The business community was successful ly advancing the position that linking trade with human rights played into the hands of those who would seek to “isolate” China. Clinton found this false dichotomy useful. ICT did not adopt this approach. On May 24, 2000, ICT said: “Today’s vote will change the tenor of U.S. China relations and bring proponents of PNTR, including big business interests, face-to-face with the reality of China — a new scenario based on China’s command and control of U.S. trade and investment dollars is about to unfold.” ICT’s then Government Relations Director (now President) Mary Beth Markey, said: “Beijing should not interpret PNTR as a referendum on human rights or a retreat from the Congress’ 1991 declaratio n that Tibet is an ‘occupied country under establishe d principles of international law.’” The Dalai Lama favored China’s entry into the WTO believing that the Chinese people merited the opportunity to fully participate in the global economy. Efforts – often unfortunate ones – were made by PNTR proponents to color His Holiness’ support for WTO entry as pro-PNTR.

I replied to the piece and though I do not know where it showed up in the print media, but I was able to find it here.

I am reproducing the text of my letter below for people like me.  However, if you click on that link above, you will reach a very serious discussion of the entire sino-tibetan issue.

Dear Sir,
What is happening in the hills of North Bengal is inevitable. Both the state and the centre are playing with fire not paying attention to the disastrous consequences that will ensue. They must settle the matter at once before the fire spreads farther into the plains as well. It had been a calculated move on the part of the British to make the Hindu Nepalese the majority community and the Buddhist Lepchas the minority in order to keep the Tibeto –chinese people at bay. The Indo –Nepal Agreement of 1950 followed the same policy. India was more concerned since China had become a communist country. As per Article 7A of this agreement the Nepalese freely immigrated to India, particularly to North Bengal and Assam, much more than Indians immigrating to Nepal. Consequently many pockets with Nepalese majority were formed in the Jalpaiguri district. The Morcha wants these places to be included in their proposed Gorkhaland because the Dooars will provide a good revenue from the three Ts– tea, timber and tourism. The agreement of 1950 must also be reviewed immediately. Otherwise soon a situation will be created when the Nepalese people become a majority in the whole of Jalpaiguri and parts of Malda and Coochbehar as well. And that will lead to the map of Gorkhaland to be redrawn.
Thanking you
Surajit Dasgupta
97a Regent Estate

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