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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Hypocrites at Work

June 1, 2008

Times of India
May 29, 2008

The quit notice served on five foreigners who joined a Tibetan
protest march shows Indian democracy in poor light.

The tourists, who are from the US and Europe, were served notices in
Uttarakhand after they had taken part in a peaceful march organised
by Tibetans. According to the government, the tourists had violated
visa rules which forbid them from taking part in any "religious
activity". The government action smacks of hypocrisy.

The prohibition on religious activity by foreign tourists is to
prevent them from propagating their religion and possibly converting
people to their faith. Those who took part in the Tibetan march can
hardly be accused of being involved in proselytising. The government
used the flimsy excuse of "religious activity" to serve expulsion orders.

This doesn't hold water since so many foreigners on tourist visas
take part in religious festivals and processions. It is obvious that
the five tourists were asked to leave the country for taking part in
a Tibetan political rally. This seems incongruous at a time when
India is sheltering the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan refugees.

What sort of a democracy are we that we can't tolerate a few
foreigners joining a peaceful rally? The alacrity with which the
government took the tourists to task reflects India's disturbing
tendency to bend over backwards to appease China on Tibet. This was
on display during the Olympic torch relay in Delhi when the event was
conducted under a heavy security blanket and the general public was
kept away. The antipathy towards protests on sensitive issues is not
restricted to foreigners. Indian citizens, who protest against state
atrocities in Kashmir or in other areas, also face the threat of
arbitrary arrest.

The Indian state prefers to crack down on individuals or groups that
have little political leverage. But when it comes to organised mob
violence, such as the ongoing protests by Gujjars in Rajasthan, the
state is often bullied into inaction. Through sheer force, the
Gujjars have managed to paralyse large parts of Rajasthan and are now
threatening to spread chaos in Delhi. The state, for the most part,
has been reduced to being a mere spectator. A rule of thumb is that
the bigger and more violent you are, the more likely you are to have
your way. In a true democracy, individuals must be allowed to voice
dissent. It's an insecure democracy that shows the door to a handful
of foreign tourists for taking part in a peaceful political rally.
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