Indian Parliament and Burma’s Question of Democracy (Part-I)

 

Few days back on 13th of June 2007, the world  come to know about the clarion call made by the Indian Parliamentarian to immediately release the living icon of democracy – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, suffering under prolonged detention in Burma. The call made by the Indian Parliamentarians Forum for Democracy in Burma was historic, as it tried to break the long silence of India’s foreign policy establishment towards Burma’s democratic questions and fulfilling the task of India’s role of world’s largest democratic nation in true spirit.

 

The call was specifically made, accepting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a real Prime Minister of Burma, respecting the mandate of May 1990 election and paying tribute to the great Asian leader, who would attain♣ her 62nd birthday in prison on 19th of June 2007. Indian Parliamentarians concerned message that, “They (the military junta) may jail you but inside your heart, inside every Burmese heart, you are free”[I] truly reflects the echo of recently launched Prayer Campaign in Burma under the leadership of Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and other 88 generation student leaders. Although the world community and people in Burma at large does not know that, Burma’s question of democracy is not new by Indian Parliamentarian, and the issue of democracy in Burma has been coming up off and on in Indian Parliamentary Sessions of both the houses – Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. However every questions raised by the honourable member of Indian Parliament is not used to covered by the Indian mass media. It becomes more difficult to cover and know about Burma’s democratic questions in Indian parliamentary debates, when it is unfortunately passing through a pariah status in Indian diplomatic circles, after the initiation of constructive engagement policy started by the former Indian Prime Minister – Mr. P.V. Narashimha Rao with Burma’s ruling military regime known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). 

 

The concern for the Burmese people and love towards Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been frequent since the year 2000, through questions by Indian Parliamentarians of both the houses (Lok Sabha or People’s house or Lower House and Rajya Sabha or Upper House), maintaining glorious tradition of Indian democracy and Gandhian values. Recently, in December 2006, an honourable member of Lok Sabha from Tenkasi constituency of Indian States of Tamil Nadu belonging to the Communist Party of India (CPI)- Mr. M. Appadurai, raised the question in Lok Sabha and asked the Indian Minister of External Affairs that, (a) Whether Myanmar has allegedly detained Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for the last so many years; (b) if so, whether this matter came up for discussion during the bilateral talks with Myanmar; (c) if so, the details thereof; and (d) the response of Myanmar thereto? The minister for External Affairs and senior congress leader, Shri Pranab Mukherjee replied on 6th of December 2006, (a) accepting the alleged detention of Daw Suu Kyi and further said (for B & C), that, “Government of India has consistently urged the Myanmar Government, including at the highest level, for the release of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. We have also emphasized the need for the political reform process in Myanmar to more inclusive and broad based; (d) Government of Myanmar has noted our position in this regard.[II]

Even in Rajya Sabha, the question on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s well being was raised by most eminent and great living Gandhian of Contemporary India – Kumari Nirmala Deshpande popularly known as “Nirmala Didi” to young and old that, “(a) Whether it is a fact that U.N. Secretary General is taking keen interest in early release of the noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi; (b) if so, the role of India, the immediate neighbour of Myanmar in helping her release; (c) if not, the reasons therefore? And the minister of state of External Affairs, Government of India, Shri E. Ahamed replied for first question in affirmative mood on the 10th of August 2006, (a) Yes Sir (rather then saying “Yes Madam”, I think probably it is difficult to answer questions in Indian Parliament, if it comes from personality like Nirmala Didi, who has dedicated her whole life for social service), (b) Government of India has consistently urged the Myanmar Government, including at the highest level, for the release of the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, We have also emphasized the need for the political reform process in Myanmar to be more inclusive and broad based; (c) Does not arise.[III]

Again in May 2006, an honourable member of Lok Sabha, from Amalapuram constituency of Indian States of Andhra Pradesh, belonging to the present ruling Indian National Congress Party – Mr. G.V. Harsha Kumar asked the Minister of External Affairs that, “(a) Whether the Union Government has sent a team to Yangon to assess the situation and discuss the emerging crisis with military rulers; (b) if so, the details of the talks held; and (c) the outcome thereof? The Minister of State for External affairs – Mr. E. Ahamed replied in negative – “(a) No, Sir.” (b & c) Does not arise.[IV] One honorable member from the Maharajganj constituency of Lok Sabha, from the Indian States of Uttar Pradesh, belonging to Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) – Mr. Pankaj Choudhary asked the question from the Indian Prime Minister showing his concern towards democracy that, “whether Britain has allegedly placed certain restrictions regarding supply of aircraft to Myanmar by India on democratic question,” and the minister of state External Affairs – Mr. E. Ahamed replied on behalf of the Indian Prime Minister in negative – “No Sir,” and it does not arise.[V]

However, unfortunately the promises and official reply given to the honourable members of Indian Parliament, by the Senior Congress leader and External Affairs Minister – Mr. Pranav Mukherjee and Mr. E. Ahamed to Mr. M. Appadurai and famous Gandhian “Nirmala Didi”, that,  “Government of India has consistently urged the Burma Government, including at the highest level, for the release of the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, We have also emphasized the need for the political reform process in Burma to be more inclusive and broad based,” was soon lost and betrayed in January 2007. The External Affairs Minister – Mr. Pranab Mukherjee’s statement, while visiting Rangoon from 19th to 21st January 2007, that, “India is not interested in exporting our own ideology. We are democracy and we would like democracy to flourish everywhere. But this is for every country to decide for itself,” is a great betrayal to the Indian Parliament and ultimately to the people of India.[VI] The official reply given in the Parliament is clear that, India wants and emphasized the need for the political reform process in Burma, specifically mentioning in terms of “BROAD BASED”, meaning inclusion of all groups in the “National Convention” as well as the commitment of working seriously towards the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. How far it would be going with the values of Gandhi and Nehru that, we say words of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian Parliament and do acts of double speaking in practice?

(Continued…)

  

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ENDNOTES: 

♣ I have intentionally avoided the term “celebrate”, which is generally coming up in different mass media, because it would be a Himalayan mistake in my view to even think for a moment about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi celebrating her birthday in detention without her beloved people and family members.

[I] Mungpi, Indian MPs greet Suu Kyi on her birthday, Mizzima News, New Delhi, India

[II] Lok Sabha Questions and Answers, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 2603 to be answered on 06 of December 2006, New Delhi, India.

[III] Rajya Sabha Questions and Answers, Rajya Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 1683, Answered on 10th of August 2006, New Delhi, India.

[IV] Lok Sabha Questions and Answers, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 2808, Answered on 10 May 2006, New Delhi, India.

[V]  Lok Sabha Questions and Answer, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 1875, Answered on 8 March 2006, New Delhi, India.

[VI] Siddharth Varadarajan, India not interested in exporting ideology: Pranab, The Hindu, New Delhi, 20 January 2007.

  (Continued…)  

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