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India & China: Two Asian giants mark their darkest days

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By Hardev Sanotra 

As India recalled its darkest period 40 years ago in June, China too marked its worst days in its recent history in same the month. But the remembrance of the events 29 years ago was more in the breach here.

On June 4, 1989 tanks of the People’s Liberation Army and its personnel armed with automatic rifles shot dead hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters in Tiananmen Square. No official figures have ever been released but protestors said they had seen thousands of bodies strewn in and around the square.

The Chinese government said it had used strong force to crush a ‘counter-revolutionary plot’ which was aimed at overthrowing those in power. But the students who were protesting from April said they were seeking “more democracy” in a nation which had not seen any.

On the 26th anniversary of the massacre, there was not much of a protest at the famed square with thousands of police personnel keeping a watch for any spontaneous show of anger against the government. The army kept a vigil from the shadows. This has been repeated every year since, with the government putting in overwhelming force to keep any protests at bay.

On the last day of June, the scene at the square was of a tourist paradise. Thousands of Chinese from Beijing and elsewhere descended on the square where the biggest killings took place. But for them it was as if the massacre did not happend. Only residents of Hong Kong, China’s Special Administrative Region, gather the courage to protest every year, as they did this year, with thousands coming out on the streets.

The power of the state, and its control over the minds of its citizens in mainland China, has not reduced much in almost three decades, though prosperity has spread wide. The Chinese are afraid to talk to a journalist about what had happened so many years ago. Even those Beijing residents who could not have missed the events are cagey. Most took refuge behind a language they said they do not understand. Only if one can catch an individual were fear of prying eyes is absent, do they open up about the “monumental tragedy” that befell the country and as it being the “most shameful episode” in its history.

The protests in Beijing were triggered by the death of Hu Yaobang, an ex-General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party, seen as a reformer who lost out in an internal power struggle with the hardliners winning and consolidating their position. Students from all over Beijing came to the Tiananmen Square to register their protest.

The protests, which went on for seven weeks, made news all around the world. They also took a cue from the Glasnost or openness being spread by Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia, The students, and their supporters, built a rough replica of the Statue of Liberty, demanding that the government grant them freedom of speech, allow the press a free hand and restore workers’ say in industry. It was a powerful movement with more than a million people, according to one estimate, filling the vast expanse of the square near downtown Beijing.

At first the government made some conciliatory noises. The press was allowed to report the protests and people came to know why the protests were happening. But when they spread to dozens of other cities, ‘Paramount Leader’ Deng Xiaping, who had ushered in economic reforms, decided to show his iron hand. The market reforms earlier had led to widespread unhappiness with the system, with corruption creeping in. Hu had protested against the corruption and had wanted political freedoms to keep pace with the economic reforms.

This was not to be. Deng ordered over 300,000 troops to crush the movement. Although in China it’s called the June 4th incident in hushed tones, the crackdown started the day before. Automatic fire was heard throughout the evening and night and when dawn broke, Beijing could hardly grasp the enormity of the massacre. TV and newspapers, again under the grip of the state, reported none of the details except to deride the protests. Foreign reporters could barely begin to understand the dimensions of the deadly force used, before many of them were asked to leave.

An iconic picture and video from the crackdown showed a Chinese, possibly a farmer confronting a line of tanks. He moved to stop the tanks again when they sought to bypass him, before he is forcibly taken away by other civilians. The ‘tank hero’, as he was called, was never traced. He just vanished, just as much of the history in China has vanished, leaving behind only official versions.

Although India came to grips with its 21 months of autocratic rule by prime minister Indira Gandhi after the end of the emergency, the Chinese were never allowed to do any soul searching. Yet, in the minds and hearts of those who are old enough to remember, the events remain as the darkest chapter in their history. Yet, like any totalitarian regime, the Chinese government has been able to wipe the events of 1989 clean from the political slate and from public discourse. (IANS)

(Hardev Sanotra is in China at the invitation of the All China Journalists’ Association. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at hardev.sanotra@ians.in)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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United nations
India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya. 

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China pays Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, Celebrates Gandhi Jayanti in Beijing

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Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Beijing, Oct 02: China on Monday celebrated the 148th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, with the India Embassy in Beijing releasing commemorative postage stamps on the Ramayana.

Many Chinese nationals offered flowers to a statue of Gandhi at Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, while school children recited his famous quotes in Mandarin on a nippy overcast day.

“Gandhiji looked forward to a day when a free India and a free China could cooperate in friendship and brotherhood for their own good and for the benefit of Asia and the World,” Wilson Babu, Charge D’Affaires at the Indian embassy, said.

“Leaders of our two countries have been striving to build strong India-China relations based on Gandhiji’s ideals of world peace and respect for all human beings.”

In Shanghai, the Indian Consulate organised a series of events including a memorial lecture, screening of a documentary film and a painting completion for children of the Indian community.

Mahatma Gandhi has become increasingly popular in China, with many Chinese researchers studying his ideology of non-violence.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar in Gujarat to Putlibai and Karamchand Gandhi. (IANS)