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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

An open letter to Aamir Khan

April 5, 2008

B Raman
April 03, 2008

Dear Aamir Khan

I read with great interest your detailed reply to your relatives,
friends, admirers and Tibetan activists in which you have justified
(external link) your decision to be one of the bearers of the Olympic
Torch at New Delhi on April 17.

You have said in your justification: 'I request those of you who have
asked me to stay away from the Olympic Torch relay to understand that
when I do run with the torch it is not in support of China. In fact it
will be with a prayer in my heart for the people of Tibet, and indeed
for all people across the world who are victims of human rights violations.'

In 1936, on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War and at the
height of Nazi atrocities, the Olympic Games were held in Germany. The
human rights movement was not as active in those days as it is now.
Despite this, many advocated the boycott of the Games. Their appeals
failed. Those who participated without any qualms of conscience, gave
exactly the same reasons as you have in your justification. The Olympic
Games do not belong to China, as you have rightly said. The Olympic
Games did not belong to Germany, they said.

The question is not what you think and said about your participation.
The question is how your participation is projected by Beijing to the
suppressed Buddhists of Tibet and Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang, who have
risen in revolt against what they consider as the Han colonisation of
their homelands and what the Dalai Lama has described as a cultural
genocide of the Tibetans.

Wherever the Olympic Torch is being taken, the Chinese have been keen
that some prominent Muslim and Buddhist personalities also participate
in carrying the torch so that they can demonstrate to the protesting
Buddhists of Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai and to the protesting
Muslims of Xinjiang that prominent Buddhist?and Muslim leaders in other
countries have endorsed the Games.

The importance of your participation and of the participation of Saif
Ali Khan to the Chinese?was not only because you are both widely-admired
film artists. It was also because both of you are widely-respected
Muslim personalities.

The importance of the participation of football hero Baichung Bhutia to
the Chinese?was not only because he is a football hero, but also because
he is a highly-respected Buddhist personality. He saw through their game
and declined to let himself be used by the Chinese to serve their
psychological warfare agenda in Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai. One
hopes he does not change his mind under pressure from our Communists. It
is a pity you have not seen through their game.

You have rightly said in your justification that no country is free from
instances of human rights violations. Not even India. In this
connection, you have referred to Kashmir.

You and others, who have written on this subject, are correct in their
references to Kashmir, our northeast, the grievances and anger of
Khalistanis and Muslims etc. We too have been having problems with our
religious and ethnic minorities just as the Chinese?have problems with
their minorities. No country in the world?is free of such problems.

The question to be asked is not whether we have the same problems as
China, but what has been our approach to these problems. Do we deal with
these problems in the same way as the Chinese do or do we follow a
different approach?

The religious and ethnic minorities in India, who have taken to arms
against the government, have accused the government and its
policy-makers of rigging elections, political, economic and social
discrimination, lack of adequate political powers to manage their own
affairs etc. They have accused the security forces of being prejudiced
against the minorities, of excessive use of force against the
minorities, of police torture etc. Has any group in India accused our
government and policy-makers of indulging in cultural genocide of the
minorities as the Dalai Lama and the leaders of the Uighur Muslim
community in China have accused the Chinese government?

In India, since we became independent in 1947, no government -- whether
of the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party or any other party -- has
ever even thought of settling members of the majority community in areas
where the minorities are in a majority. Pakistan has?systematically
settled Punjabi ex-servicemen in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir?and in the
Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) in order to reduce the ethnic
Kashmiris to a minority in their traditional homeland. It has
systematically settled Wahabised Sunnis in the Northern Areas in order
to reduce the Shias to a minority. China has systematically settled Hans
from mainland China and the Hui Muslims from central China in Tibet in
order to reduce ethnic Tibetans to a minority and dilute the majority
status of Buddhism. It has similarly settled Hans in Xinjiang in order
to reduce the Uighurs to a minority and dilute the impact of Islam. In
our country, our laws will not permit such abuses.

In Jammu and Kashmir, no non-Kashmiri has ever been chief minister. Same
is the case in Nagaland and Mizoram. Can you cite an instance since the
occupation of Tibet by the Chinese in 1951 when an ethnic Tibetan has
headed the local party and government set-up?

We have been fairly regularly holding elections in the northeast and
Kashmir except during periods when serious insurgency situations did not
permit the holding of elections. In Kashmir, there were allegations of
rigging of the elections. Because of this, in recent elections, we
allowed foreign diplomats and journalists to visit Kashmir before and
during the elections to satisfy for themselves that the polls were free
and fair.

Has China ever held a single democratic?election in Tibet, Xinjiang and
Inner Mongolia since the Communists captured power in 1949?

We have many insurgent and terrorist organisations purporting to speak
for the religious and ethnic minorities, which have taken to arms
against the government. Have you ever seen our political leaders and
policy-makers indulge in a campaign of demonisation and personal
vilification?similar to the Chinese campaign against the Dalai Lama?
Beijing calls him 'a liar, a conspirator, a cheat, a terrorist' and so
on. Even the Chinese Red Guards, who ran amok in China during the days
of Mao, never used such expressions against political dissidents.

The leaders of separatist organisations freely interact with our media.
They are interviewed?by our print and electronic media and invited to
participate in our television talk shows. You recently attended the
World Leadership Summit organised by the India Today Group. I read in
the media that one of those invited to address the summit was Yasin
Malik, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. Can you mention
a single instance since 1949 when Beijing has allowed a single dissident
leader to similarly interact with the media and foreign diplomats? Have
you ever seen a single interview of the Dalai Lama in the Chinese media?
Have you ever seen a single statement of his ever published in the
Chinese media?

There is an international humanitarian instrument called the Second
Additional Protocol to the International Red Cross Convention. It
accords to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross
locus standi to provide humanitarian relief in internal conflict
situations. India has refused to sign this but, de facto, it observes
many of the provisions of this protocol. It has allowed the ICRC to have
an office in New Delhi. It has permitted senior retired police officers
to act as consultants to the ICRC office. It has allowed the ICRC to
conduct training classes in human rights for our security forces. It has
allowed ICRC delegates to visit jails in Jammu and Kashmir to enable
them to satisfy for themselves that humanitarian laws are being observed
even in respect of terrorist-suspects. Has China done any of these
things in its minority provinces?

The Government of India recently allowed Asma Jehangir, the well-known
Pakistani human rights activist, who has been appointed as the UN
Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, to visit Gujarat and J&K to look at
the human rights situation. She has come out with a very critical
report. Will China allow the UN to appoint a similar Special Rapporteur
for Tibet to inquire into allegations of cultural genocide in Tibet?

The way we handle our problems in the minority areas is totally
different from the way the Chinese handle them. We handle them like
civilised, democratic people. The Chinese handle them like Hitler and
Stalin used to do. It is, therefore, totally unfair and incorrect to
project as you have sought to do and as many leftist-minded
intellectuals in India have sought to do, as if China is more sinned
against than sinning and that its negative human rights record is no
different from that of many other countries, including India.

I have myself been a strong supporter of the Olympics being held in
Beijing. I wrote even after the recent revolt in Tibet that we should
not support the moves for a boycott of the Bejing Games because by doing
so, we will be humiliating over a billion Chinese people because of the
misdeeds of their leaders and policy-makers.

At the same time, I have been of the view that we should not help China
in giving a great shine to the Games despite all that has been happening
in Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia as if
nothing has happened. A lot has happened in the Tibetan-inhabited areas
of China. A lot of blood has been spilt. A highly-respected religious
leader of the world has been insulted and demonised like no other
religious leader of the world has ever been demonised.

The Beijing Olympics has already become a blood-stained Olympics. The
Chinese are frantically trying to remove those blood stains. We should
not help them in their efforts to do so. By lending your name and
prestige to the torch run, you are unwittingly helping the Chinese to
cover up the blood stains.

You have millions of admirers as an artist all over the world. You will
continue to have millions of admirers whatever be your final decision.
But many of them will have feelings of vacuum in their hearts over your
failure to distinguish between the right and the wrong.

Warm regards

Yours sincerely

B Raman
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