New Delhi Converted to Lhasa
India's capital city of New Delhi on April 17, 2007 in scenes reminiscent of Lhasa garrisoned by China's security forces after their brutal suppression of protesting Tibetan monks and Tibetan freedom activists was sanitized of all Indian public presence and had over 17, 000 Indian security forces cordoning in three tiers a three kilometer route along the Rajpath where India's pride of military might is paraded every year on Republic Day. The security cordoning of India's seat of power and up to a radius of five kilometers all around, was not to facilitate the run of the Olympic Flame but what has turned out to be China's 'Torch of Shame' as exemplified by its continued military occupation of the spiritual nation of Tibet. In a tragic and painful twist of India's military history, opposite India's War Memorial at India Gate there was a large gathering of Chinese people with giant Chinese flags waving tauntingly with no corresponding enclosure of Indian public with Indian flags. It seemed visually that probably China had taken over India Gate.
While the Congress Government of India may have scored brownie points with the Chinese Government for converting New Delhi into Lhasa to facilitate China's dubious political exploitation of the Olympic Flame to improve its international image, the opposite effect has been induced. Indians barring the small minority of China apologists both political and civilian, were fuming at this garrisoning of the heart of New Delhi and dislocating public life and many questions were being raised.
Firstly, why was the Rajpath stretch extending from the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidents Lodge) to the India Gate War Memorial chosen as the route for the Olympic Flame? This stretch politically symbolizes highly nationalistic Indian overtones and values which have nothing in common with the Communist totalitarian regime of China and its military subjugation of Tibet. Since it was a sports event only the route could have been from the National Stadium to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium both of which had hosted earlier Asian Games.
By the faulty choosing of such a highly politically emotive and nationally emotive route the impression going around was that the Congress Government was bending backwards to appease China and to kowtow before Chinese dictates. In the days preceding the event the Chinese Ambassador was in a flurry of activity with senior Indian Government ministers and officials and throwing around appreciations as if he was the Viceroy of China in India.
Secondly, if India was truly a democracy then why were Tibetan protestors not allowed to demonstrate peacefully along the route of China's 'Torch of Shame'? This was allowed in all other democracies in the West through which the Olympic Flame had traversed. Or does the Indian Democracy now have to acquire 'Chinese Characteristics' as the major coalition partner of the Congress Government would have desired.
By letting Tibetan protestors demonstrate far away from the route does not prove the point that India is a democracy. Sadly India's democratic instincts slink away when China enters into the picture and the spine crumbles to tell China that we will do things our way.
Thirdly, thousands of Indians in New Delhi were inconvenienced and put to trouble for hours until the cordoning virtually demanded by China was lifted in the evening. There were people stuck for hours due to traffic blockades on their way to hospitals. Going to ridiculous lengths the Indian Government had ordered all windows and doors of Government offices all along the route to be kept closed and the Government employees caged in for the whole day. Would such a thing have happened in UK, USA, or France? This sort of caging the Indian people is admittedly a tacit admission by the Indian Government that Indians by and large detest China.
Fourthly, what about the financial loss in terms of deployment of 17,000 policemen, the manhours lost in Government offices and trade and commerce vehicles stuck in traffic jams due to route closures.
All in all, an event which should have fostered good feelings and relationships with a wide Indian participation was reduced to absurd lengths of security by the Indian Government just to cater for China's insecurities arising from the Tibetans freedom struggle.
Indian Olympic officials and those of the Government who patted their backs after the run of the Olympic Flame in a highly cordoned and sanitized security corridor should not forget that what security had been contrived has been viewed by many people as shielding China's 'Torch of Shame'- a torch which illuminated worldwide China's shameful record of cultural genocide in Tibet.
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Dr. Subhash Kapila
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