CAN RAM NATH KOVIND, SECOND DALIT PRESIDENT, FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FIRST DALIT PRESIDENT K R NARAYANAN?

The article originally appeared on India Today.

India’s President-elect Ram Nath Kovind is only the second Dalit President of the country. He won comfortably by cornering 66 per cent of the Presidential electoral college while his rival, another eminent Dalit politician, Meira Kumar got 36 per cent votes.

The result of the presidential election held on 17 July was just a requirement for Kovind to take over India’s apex constitutional job and the coveted Rashtrapati Bhawan at the Raisina Hills in Delhi. But since he is the only second Dalit President in the country, he would obviously be compared with the first Dalit President of India, K R Narayanan who was in office from 25 July 1997 to 25 July 2002.

Former President K R Narayanan, described by Jawaharlal Nehru as the best diplomat of the country, was known as a pro-active President with an official run that saw landmark active presidential interventions and three of them stand out, his flat no to the then BJP led Atal Bihari Vajpayee government on the Constitution’s review in favour of Presidential System in India, his conscious decisions of returning the Union Cabinet advice on imposing the President’s Rule in states and his advocacy for weaker sections for their under-representation in Indian judicial service.

THE CONSTITUTION’S REVIEW

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to dilute the terms of reference of the National Commission that it had constituted for the Constitution’s review in 2000. After stern message from Narayanan who would go on to say that “we should examine whether the Constitution has failed us or we have failed the Constitution”, that any Constitution review process could only be undertaken within its basic framework only, preserving the sanctity of the Parliamentary System of India, the Atal Government was forced to change the basic mandate of the National Commission from ‘the ‘Constitution’s review to review the working of the Constitution’ with an assurance that the ‘review will be done without interfering with the basic structure of the Construction’.

The other most visible change that the former President’s tough stand brought was on who was going to head the National Commission to review the Constitution. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L K Advani, reportedly, had requested former President R Venkataraman, a strong proponent of the Presidential System, to head the National Commission. But Narayanan’s reservations on the Presidential System, coupled with objections from the BJP allies like DMK and TDP on Venkataraman, the government had to shed the idea. Then it zeroed in on the name of the former Chief Justice of India (CJI) and former National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman M N Venkatachaliah. But Justice Venkatachaliah only agreed to head the commission after given assurance that the basic structure of parliamentary framework of the Constitution would not be touched and his decision would prevail in recruiting the other ten members of the Commission.

REFUSED TO APPROVE IMPOSITION OF PRESIDENT’S RULE IN UTTAR PRADESH AND BIHAR

This one is a fine example to see how President Narayanan rose above party politics to upheld the dignity of the post that required, theoretically, unflinching loyalty to the Constitution and unwavering impartiality in dealing with the political parties irrespective of the previous political affiliation.

In October 1997, President Narayanan returned the union cabinet decision on imposing President’s Rule under Article 356 in Uttar Pradesh for reconsideration. The United Front Government was led by Congress’ I K Gujral. It didn’t matter for Narayanan while returning the decision that he was a career Congress politician brought into politics by Indira Gandhi and was a Union minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet. Gujral government respected his decision and the BJP led UP government of Kalyan Singh escaped the dismissal.

Almost a year after it, in September 1998, Narayanan returned the Union Government’s file on imposition of the President’s Rule in Bihar. The government in centre was of BJPs’, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee which had recommended the dismissal of the RJD government in Bihar led by Rabri Devi. In a series of dramatic developments, the Rabri government was able to demonstrate that numbers were in its favour – 182 MLAs in a legislative assembly of 325 members. The then NDA government had based its decision on imposing the President’s Rule in Bihar citing corruption and Constitutional breakdown in the state but the clear majority in the Bihar assembly in Rabri Devi’s favour could not override President Narayanan’s conviction that dismissing an elected government in the case would be akin to acting against people’s mandate and thus violating the spirit of the Constitution.

These two decisions of President Narayanan remain unparalleled in the Indian political history. They effectively established the credibility of the institution of the President of India that it was not mere a decorative position with a rubber-stamp President to follow the diktats of the government of the day but an institution that housed the soul of the Indian Constitution.

ADVOCACY FOR WEAKER SECTIONS IN THE INDIAN JUDICIARY

K R Narayanan was vocal about under-representation of Dalits in the higher judiciary. He would often question the judges’ appointment and transfer process in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, something that even invited confrontation with the judiciary. Narayanan on record had said even if deserving candidates from the weaker sections were available, they were ignored.

He had written in November 1998, “I would like to record my views that while recommending the appointment of Supreme Court judges, it would be consonant with constitutional principles and the nation’s social objectives if persons belonging to weaker sections of society like SCs and STs, who comprise 25 per cent of the population, and women are given due consideration.”

Though the then CJI strongly refuted it ruling out any caste-based discrimination in the appointments in the higher judiciary, two successive CJIs, A M Ahmadi and J S Verma, had failed to recommend elevation of any High Court Dalit Justice to the Supreme Court, before CJI M M Punchhi recommended Justice K G Balakrishnan who was then the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court for the Supreme Court in March 1998.

After the strongly-worded suggestion from Narayanan, the judicial circles started trying to figure out whom the President was referring to but CJI A S Anand, who succeeded Punchhi refused to elevate Balakrishnan as he was 53 then while the minimum age for the elevation to the Supreme Court was 55 as per the judicial convention being followed. Though exceptions could have been made for meritorious candidates, the Supreme Court Collegium ruled out doing so in Balakrishnan’s case who was finally elevated to the top court in June 2000 after he turned 55 in May 2000.

LIKE NARAYANAN, KOVIND, TOO, COMES FROM A HUMBLE BACKGROUND

President-elect Ram Nath Kovind, too, comes from a humble background as President Narayanan. They both had their share of struggle before they started on the path to success in life. Kovind though may not have as illustrious a career as Narayanan had who was an IFS officer, a career diplomat, a union minister and the Vice-President before becoming the President of India, he has been a successful lawyer, practicing in India’s apex court for years.

And like Narayanan, he has also earned a reputation of playing by the rule book while being Governor of Bihar. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is all praise for him the way he has discharged his gubernatorial responsibility in the state. Like Narayanan, he has been speaking for the weaker sections going as far as to join agitation against laws that he considered anti SC/ST. His clean and non-controversial record will only help him.

Let’s see if he can follow in the footsteps of K R Narayanan, extending the legacy of the Presidents who restored the credibility of the institution. In his post-victory speech, an emotional Kovind said he was going to the Rashtrapati Bhawan as a representative of every Indian citizen who worked hard to arrange for an evening meal. Let’s see where his conscience drives him.

©SantoshChaubey

US KEEPING PAKISTAN ON SAFE HAVEN OF TERRORISTS LIST IS EXTENSION OF MODI-TRUMP’S JOINT STATEMENT

The article originally appeared on India Today.

For the first time, the US has directly termed Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists in its annual ‘Country Reports on Terrorism’ released by the US State Department. The report analysing terror activities in 2016 says various terrorist groups including Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, LeT and JeM continue to operate from Pakistan-based safe havens.

The line taken by the US in its annual authoritative report, a first, is a clear extension from the joint statement issued after the summit between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter’s US visit in June this year.

In the joint statement, Modi and Trump had asserted that the terrorist safe havens should be rooted out from every part of the world. The joint statement mentioned Pakistan thrice and called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory isn’t used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, and to “expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.”

When seen in comparison to Modi-Obama joint statements, it was a clear departure.

The three joint statements after Modi-Obama summits in September 2014, January 2015 and June 2016 mentioned routine themes like expediting trials in the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks and cracking down on terror outfits including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, JeM, LeT, they stopped short of calling these terror groups as even Pakistan-based, let along calling Pakistan directly a safe haven for terrorists, even if Pakistan indeed is a terror state.

The optics that was missing due to diplomatic hesitations got its first clear shot that hesitations were going away in Modi-Trump joint statement. The joint statement, coupled with the US declaring Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist, went miles ahead when it specifically wrote “cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups”. It was a clear indication of US’ toughening line on Pakistan on support of terror infrastructure in country.

And if we see more tough measures by the US on Pakistan in future, we should not be surprised. Ted Poe, an influential US Congressman and a Republican, has introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives to declare “Pakistan state sponsor of terrorism” citing its pro-terror activities like harbouring Osama bin Laden or many other terror groups. Ted Poe is the chairman of the important “House Subcommittee on Terrorism”.

This is not the first time that Ted Poe has brought a legislation for approval on declaring Pakistan a terror state. In September 2016, after the cowardly Uri attack by Pakistan based JeM terrorists on September 18 that killed 17 sleeping Indian soldiers, Ted Poe had introduced “the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act” calling Pakistan “an untrustworthy ally”. And it is not just Ted Poe. There are many other influential Congressmen and politicians who have been voicing to declare Pakistan a terror state or to curb down military aid to the country.

Add to it the well known hostility of Donald Trump, who is a Republican Party politician like Ted Poe, towards Pakistan and writing on the wall is becoming clear now. In Past, Trump has described Pakistan with terms like ‘Pakistan is not our friend’ and “when it will apologize for providing safe sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden”. In May, when, during his first Presidential foreign tour, Trump had named India as a terror victim along with China, Russia, Australia, European, African and South American countries, while ignoring any Pakistan mention altogether in his first overseas speech, it was a clear message that Pakistan was fast losing its credibility in Washington’s strategic circles.

In fact, in its ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community’ report released in May, the US Government had blamed Pakistan for deteriorating India-Pakistan ties batting for India’s growing intolerance over Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism and in April, Gen HR McMaster, the US National Security Advisor, who was in Pakistan, had bluntly told Pakistan to stop using terror as state policy.

©SantoshChaubey

SIKKIM: FROM PROTECTORATE TO 22ND STATE OF THE INDIAN UNION

STATALES

2003: CHINA WENT FOR A SWAP OFFER, SOMETHING THAT IT HAS BEEN TRYING TO DO WITH ARUNACHAL PRADESH – IT AGREED TO FINALLY RECOGNIZE SIKKIM AS AN INDIAN STATE AFTER INDIA AGREED TO DECLARE TIBET A PART OF CHINA.

NATHU LA REOPENING IN 2006: THE FAMED TRADE ROUTE OF ANCIENT DAYS WAS REOPENED AFTER 44 YEARS AFTER IT WAS CLOSED IN THE 1962 WAR. IT EFFECTIVELY PUT TO REST ALL CHINESE DESIGNS ON NOT ACCEPTING SIKKIM AS INDIAN TERRITORY.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

1890 – THE BRITISH-CHINESE CONVENTION: SIKKIM DECLARED A “PROTECTORATE” OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE – LATER ON, IT BECAME A PRINCELY STATE OF THE BRITISH INDIA.

1947-1950: SIKKIM AS AN INDEPENDENT NATION – AS PEOPLE OF SIKKIM REJECTED THE PROPOSITION TO MERGE INTO INDIA THROUGH A POPULAR VOTE.

1950: INDO-SIKKIM TREATY WHICH MADE SIKKIM AN INDIAN PROTECTORATE – SIKKIM CONTINUED TO BE A SOVEREIGN NATION – BUT WOULD DEFER TO INDIA IN ISSUES OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND COMMUNICATION.

1975: CONTINUING ANTI-ROYAL PROTESTS – SIKKIM’S PRIME MINISTER REQUESTED FOR MERGER INTO THE INDIAN UNION.

  • APRIL 1975: INDIAN ARMY IN GANGTOK – REFERENDUM HELD – 97.5% VOTED TO JOIN INDIA.
  • MAY1975 : KINGDOM OF SIKKIM BECAME INDIA’S 22ND STATE.

CHINA ON MERGER: CHINA TERMED THE REFERENDUM ILLEGITIMATE, UNDER MILITARY PRESSURE – FOR CHINA, SIKKIM REMAINED AN INDEPENDENT NATION TILL 2003 WHEN THE SIKKIM-TIBET DEAL WAS REACHED AT.

©SantoshChaubey

WHAT DEFINES INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: COMMERCIAL INTERESTS OR STRATEGIC CONCERNS?

What matters more in international relations? What shapes the contours of bilateral ties in contemporary times? Certainly trade is an important factor but it is not the most important factor.

It is always about the engagement on strategic levels that defines bilateral relations between countries or the international alliances of groupings of countries, be it US-Israel or US-UK or NATO and other similar ties and alliances. They have been rock solid ties weathering varying seasons with equal fervour because the cornerstone of these relations have been strategic concerns. Historical linkages are an added advantage.

Though NATO has seen some trouble recently with US President Donald Trump raising objections over skewed funding contribution in the world’s most formidable military alliance between countries where the US is the largest contributor, NATO is still sailing smoothly with regular high level US visits to the NATO headquarters at Brussels.

In contrast, trading blocs like WTO, NAFTA, ASEAN, APEC, SCO and so on are basically about commercial engagements and though have increasingly become important in a world globalized by economy, cannot replace the ties built on strategic interests, especially in the times of crisis, like prolonged border standoffs or any aggression inimical to bilateral ties.

Also, when countries are globally important and are slated to become poles in a multi-polar world of future, like India and China are, what is going to define their diplomacy and international politics is how they cultivate their strategic ties.

Because loss of commercial interests can be met with forging other ties and alliances but there is no replacement for a strategic tie that gives a country sense of security or tools to secure its borders and skies.

That is why China doesn’t matter for India in case the ongoing border tension in the Sikkim Sector between two countries escalate to severe levels resulting in localized, limited scale military hostilities (because the two nuclear powered nations cannot afford a full-scale war).

China is basically a country engaged in trade relations with India. Relations have failed to go beyond that. There are no cultural ties and people to people contact. Defence and other strategic elements are non-existent from the table. Coupled it with the non-existent India-China bilateral trade in services. All these factors make India to easily look beyond China when it comes to suspending ties.

The bilateral trade between India and China was around $71 Billion in 2016 with a trade deficit highly skewed in Chinese favour – $47.8 Billion. India basically exports diamonds, cotton, yarn, organic chemicals, iron ore and copper worth $12 Billion (2016). Chinese export to India includes fertilizers, antibiotics, electrical machinery, equipments and organic chemicals and the 2016 worth was $59 Billion.

When we see the items of import and export, especially in the context of the stagnating Chinese economy, it is quite clear that India can easily do away with its miniscule Chinese export. But it will be difficult for China to ignore India, the world’s fastest growing large economy now for many quarters. Add to it India’s projected middle class base of around 450 million people and the country becomes a promising market for any manufacturing hub like China.

The trade deficit with China doesn’t hurt us (and won’t hurt us), at least in the near future, till the country reaches to a stage where unemployment becomes chronic and threatening for the country’s weaving; till the time we have ramped up our infrastructure to be able to make for any future contingency on our manufacturing needs. Till then, it’s like we have outsourced our manufacturing needs to countries like China (and with manufacturing bases in many other countries, we can easily find alternatives).

But China has not this advantage. It is already the manufacturing engine of the world with its majority of population engaged in those small or large factories supplying to the world. They are as dependent on the domestic Chinese consumption as the international demand.

With a slowing down economy, the domestic consumption in China is going to ease and its manufacturing hubs are going to be ever more dependent on big overseas markets and India is a big imperative there. It is important to maintain China’s social fabric with flow of jobs and gains of economy in the society and is going to be must for its behemoth economy that needs global markets to lubricate its tentacles. Just a corollary would suffice to prove the point here. Four Chinese manufactures, Xiaomi, Lenovo, Oppo and Vivo, are in top five of the Indian smartphone market. India can easily find alternative smartphone manufacturers with a strong domestic industry to fill the gaps. But these Chinese manufactures cannot find a market like India that has emerged as the world’s fastest growing smartphone market.

To continue….

©SantoshChaubey

NOT JUST CONGRESS, EVERY GOVERNMENT WANTS ‘YES MEN’

The article originally appeared on India Today.

A Congress led state government has shunted out an honest IPS officer, DIG (Prisons) Roopa D Moudgil for unearthing corruption in the Bengaluru Central Prison that how jailed AIADMK leader VK Sasikala was getting undue favours by bribing officials. The state administration has alleged that she exceeded her brief by talking to media, even if, in public perception, she has blown the lid off a massive corruption in state prisons which come directly under CM Siddaramaiah who also holds the Home Ministry portfolio of the state.

The opposition BJP in the state is crying hoarse over it and is preparing to raise the Sasikala prison affair in the Parliament tomorrow. Karnataka BJP president Yeddyurappa likened the treatment meted to her as ‘punishment for honesty’ and said he would raise the issue with India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

But just a fortnight ago, a BJP run state government in Uttar Pradesh had shunted out an honest IPS officer, Bulandshahr DSP Shrestha Thakur, for fining a BJP worker who violated traffic rules. BJP city president and other workers rushed to the spot and soon there was an ugly verbal spat reeking arrogance of power as the BJP workers started blaming police for asking for bribe. The DSP went ahead with her action and jailed five BJP workers instead for creating obstruction in discharging government duties. The incident had happened on June 22 and Shrestha Thakur was transferred to Bahraich on July 1. The move was widely seen as a punishment transfer for going against the workers of ruling party in the state.

Also, the Adityanath government’s order to transfer Saharanpur SSP Luv Kumar to Gautam Budh Nagar in April, though claimed to be a compromise, was seen as punishment transfer as Raghav Lakhanpal, BJP Lok Sabha MP from Saharanpur, had claimed that he would get the SSP transferred terming him ‘naalayak (worthless). Kumar was credited with containing the communal fare-up and had booked Lakhanpal and other BJP MLAs and workers for allegedly inciting rioting and arsoning. He had not allowed BJP procession led by Lakhanpal, commemorating Ambedkar birth anniversary to pass through a restricted route which had angered Lakhanpal.

In May, the AIADMK government of E Palaniswamy in Tamil Nadu had transferred N K Senthamarai Kannan, North Zone IG, and J Mutharasi, Kancheepuram SP. The government move was seen as reprimanding as both of these officers were responsible for police action at the Golden Bay Resort where VK Sasikala had rounded up AIADMK MLAs to keep her flock intact in the AIADMK faction war between O Panneerselvam and Sasikala to corner the ruling party of Tamil Nadu after J Jayalalithaa’s death.

In November 2015, Fatehabad SP Sangeeta Rani Kalia was transferred by another BJP run state government in Haryana after heated verbal exchange with senior Haryana minister Anil Vij. After a verbal spat on illicit liquor trade, the minister asked the SP to get out of the meeting. The SP responded back by saying the minister could not humiliate her like that and she was not going to leave. The minister then stormed out. The next day, the SP was transferred.

The case of Durga Shakti Nagpal, a young IAS officer from Uttar Pradesh, was a shocking incident and this time it was a Samajwadi Pary (SP) government. She was posted as Sub-Divisional Magistrate in Gautam Budh Nagar’s Greater Noida. She was just 28 then but her steely resolve saw effective crackdown on sand-mining mafia of the area many of whom were very near to the power corridors of Lucknow.

Though she was suspended under allegations of inciting communal tension by ordering razing down a mosque boundary wall, it was seen as punishment for taking on sand mafia for which she had won national praise. While she was being charge-sheeted, senior SP leaders were busy making humiliating remarks against her. Senior SP leader Narender Bhati was caught on camera bragging that he got her suspended within 41 hours. Another UP minister called her a liar and CM Akhilesh Yadav himself termed her an errant child. All this when Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Manmohan Singh to ensure justice to her; Ram Jethmalani offered to defend her case; and UP and Central IAS Officers Associations petitioned the UP government against her suspension.

From Congress to BJP to AIADMK to SP, these are just some of the incidents to show how political parties treat bureaucrats. The message is clear that they all need just ‘yes men’. If someone dares to take a different line based on conscience, the person should be ready to face consequences.

©SantoshChaubey

CLEANING THE GANGA: GANGA ACTION PLAN PHASE 1

STATALES

14 JUNE 1985: LAUNCHED
MARCH 31, 2000: DECLARED CLOSED

INITIAL OBJECTIVE IN 1985: IMPROVING THE GANGA WATER QUALITY TO ACCEPTABLE STANDARDS (VAGUE)

REVISED AND CLEAR OBJECTIVE – IN 1987: RESTORING THE GANGA WATER QUALITY TO BATHING STANDARD

COST

  • RS. 256.26 CRORE: ORIGINAL SANCTIONED COST
    RS. 462.04 CRORE: REVISED SANCTIONED COST, APPROVED IN AUGUST 1994

AREA COVERED
25 CLASS-I TOWNS SPREAD ACROSS FOUR STATES

  • 6 TOWNS: UTTAR PRADESH
  • 4 TOWNS: BIHAR
  • 15 TOWNS: WEST BENGAL

STATUS OF SCHEMES

  • WEST BENGAL: 110 SCHEMES SANCTIONED – ALL COMPLETED
  • UTTAR PRADESH: 106 SCHEMES SANCTIONED – ALL COMPLETED
  • BIHAR: 45 SCHEMES SANCTIONED – 44 COMPLETED

WASTEWATER TREATMENT CAPACITY CREATED

  • 1340 MLD: TOTAL ESTIMATED WASTEWATER IN 25 TOWNS COVERED UNDER PHASE-I
  • 868.69 MLD: SEWAGE TREATMENT CAPACITY CREATED UNDER PHASE-I
  • 882.19 MLD: SEWAGE CAPACITY CREATION TARGET OF GANGA ACTION PLAN PHASE-I
  • WEST BENGAL: 371.06 MLD – 15 PROJECTS
  • UTTAR PRADESH: 375.09 MLD – 13 PROJECTS
  • BIHAR: 122 MLD – 6 PROJECTS (TARGET – 7 PROJECTS)

©SantoshChaubey

TIME COVER CATCHES DONALD TRUMP JR ‘RED HANDED’

Time magazine has put Donald Trump Jr. on its cover page with an aptly curated tag – ‘red-handed’ and the Twitter handle of the magazine has tweeted an interesting video about it.

The video highlights words like ‘Russia – Clinton – private and confidential – info – Trump Jr. writing I love it – very high level and ultra-sensitive information’ – from Trump Jr. email conversation to on possibility of getting damaging information about Hillary Clinton that he himself had tweeted after the New York Times story about his meeting with a Russian lawyer with Kremlin connection in June 2016 that promised compromising and sensitive information about the democratic rival of his father Donald Trump Sr.

While releasing the email chain, Trump Jr. had claimed that he was doing so in order to be totally transparent. Trump Sr. appreciated it saying his son Donald did a good job and he was open, transparent and innocent. Trump Sr. then went on to add his routine line about the ongoing FBI probe into Russian meddling into last year’s US presidential election – ‘this is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!’

But the New York Times immediately hit back saying that Trump Jr. was forced to do so as he was aware that the Times was going to release the email conversation. Trump Jr. act has brought a storm in America as it has effectively shut down all those tall claims by Donald Trump, his family and his associates that the whole story about Russian collusion was fake and phony and they had nothing to do with Russians.

Both, Trump Sr. and Trump Jr. used to claim in past that there could not be a bigger lie than the alleged Russian help for the Trump campaign. But the email conversation clearly proves that the Trump campaign team was in touch with Russians irrespective of the fact the email chain doesn’t prove that the Trump team indeed colluded with the Russians. And it has changed the whole discourse about the affair in the American political and media circles with experts even asking if Donald Trump Jr. can go to jail for it.

©SantoshChaubey

LIU XIAOBO IS NO MORE: CHINA KILLS ITS MOST RECOGNIZED DISSIDENT VOICE

Liu Xiaobo, 61, a university professor turned human rights activist, who was China’s most known figure raising voice for democracy and political reforms in a country fettered in autocratic chains of one-party dictatorial regime since 1950 has died from terminal liver cancer while in custody. He was China’s leading dissident voice and human rights activist.

Liu Xiaobo had been a cynosure for the Chinese power elite ever since 1989 when he took part in protests on the Tiananmen Square as a young academician. China had arrested him four times – the last in 2008. He was detained in December 2008 and sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for inciting subversion of state power.

The world tried to sent China a message by selecting him for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. China, a hell for human rights and political reform activists, responded to the decision saying the decision was totally wrong and unacceptable and started threatening countries to boycott the Award Ceremony on December 10, 2010. The Nobel Award ceremony was held with an empty chair representing him.

The power elite of the Chinese Communist Party moved swiftly to crush the every possible mention of Liu Xiaobo in China. They put Liu’s wife Liu Xia under house arrest the very day the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its decision, i.e., October 8, 2010. She has been languishing in such forced conditions since then amid repeated calls by the international community to release her, a call that has got a renewed urge after demise of Liu.

China systematically killed Liu by incarcerating him in tough prison conditions and denying him the medical care that he required, something that deteriorated his health to life threatening condition ultimately. Domestic protests and international outrage mean nothing for China, death of Liu from terminal liver cancer once again proves. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has termed the death as premature and saying that China bears a heavy responsibility for it.

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu was first to any Chinese while still being in China and with his death in captivity, he has become also the first Nobel Peace laureate die in custody in almost eight decades. Before him, German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1935, had died in Nazi custody in 1938.

©SantoshChaubey

LIU XIAOBO IS NO MORE: CHINA HAS KILLED ITS MOST RECOGNIZED DISSIDENT VOICE

He who was China’s most known figure raising voice for democracy and political reforms in a country fettered in autocratic chains of one-party dictatorial regime since 1950.

He was China’s leading dissident voice and human rights activist.

He had been a cynosure for the Chinese power elite ever since 1989 when he took part in protests on the Tiananmen Square as a young academician. China had arrested him four times – the last in 2008. He was detained in December 2008 and sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for inciting subversion of state power.

The world tried to sent China a message by selecting him for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. China, a hell for human rights and political reform activists, responded to the decision saying the decision was totally wrong and unacceptable and started threatening countries to boycott the Award Ceremony on December 10, 2010. The Nobel Award ceremony was held with an empty chair representing him.

The power elite of the Chinese Communist Party moved swiftly to crush the every possible mention of Liu Xiaobo in China. They put Liu’s wife Liu Xia under house arrest the very day the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its decision, i.e., October 8, 2010. She has been languishing in such forced conditions since then amid repeated calls by the international community to release her, a call that has got a renewed urge after demise of Liu.

China systematically killed Liu by incarcerating him in tough prison conditions and denying him the medical care that he required, something that deteriorated his health to life threatening condition ultimately. Domestic protests and international outrage mean nothing for China, death of Liu from terminal liver cancer once again proves. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has termed the death as premature and saying that China bears a heavy responsibility for it.

I had written in article in 2010 on what a Peace Nobel to Chinese human rights and pro-democracy activist meant – for Chinese society, for China’s power elite and for China’s pro-democracy activists.

I am sharing these articles here, with a more authoritative China under a more authoritative dictator, Ji Xinping, who has declared himself a ‘core leader’ like Mao Zedong and is working to make his power absolute in China – antithesis to the core body of thought that was behind the decision to award Peace Nobel to Liu Xiaobo.

These seven years have been a letdown for human rights and political reforms in China. But the big catch is China’s economic stagnation. It’s economy is slowing down and that is forcing the Chinese government to find new markets for its companies and new markets for its huge manufacturing base back home, in order to meet the expectations of its 1.37 billion strong population.

That, in turn, is forcing China to integrate more into global economy. All its attempts to forge global trade and climate alliances and trying to push its hegemony are half-baked attempts to that. That is bound to have a cost for the Chinese power elite. Increasingly, it will become difficult for a more globally involved China to do stuff like Tiananmen Massacre or incarcerating Liu Xiaobo or Ai Weiwei because China will not be in a position to face global isolation as that may push its dissident domestic factors beyond control.

Yes, it is not going to happen in near future. But evolution is a long-term process. Silence socially doesn’t mean people are not reacting. Spiral of silence may build up for years, depending on the dynamics of a country, before it leads to explosion of people’s anger.

CHINA’S DISSIDENCE ON PEACE NOBEL TO A ‘DISSIDENT’: WHAT’S ON STAKE FOR THE STAKEHOLDERS – I

A mighty state machinery goes into thinking mode based on some media inputs and its intelligence briefing. It anticipates some mobilization and prepares a control plan. A house is cordoned off. A lady is put under virtual house arrest. A counter speech is prepared in case the intelligence input gains ground.

Welcome to China, country of 2010 Nobel peace Laureate, Liu Xiaobo. Liu is China’s first Nobel laureate who remained there to face the state’s wrath.

It was a day when China joined the league of Burma, Iran, cold-war era USSR or Hitler era Germany in denouncing the person honouring the most serious recognition for efforts to bring the positive change – the Peace Nobel.

It was a day when the Nobel Peace Committee didn’t throw any ‘hard to swallow surprises’ like last year decision to award Peace Nobel to Barack Obama.

It was a day when ‘aspiration’ prevailed over ‘achievement’. Less than expected performance of Obama during last one year in office is any indication?

It was a day when Gandhian values of non-violence and ‘human-first’ prevailed again.

On 8th October 2010, when the Nobel Peace Committee announced the prize for Xiaobo, a human rights activist and a cynosure for the Chinese since 1989 when he took part in protests on the Tiananmen Square as a young academician, it was on the expected line.

Dr Sima Samar, the Afghan human rights activist, Liu Xiaobo, Democratic Voice of Burma and Special Court for Sierra Leone were the most talked about contenders for this year Peace Nobel. And all these names suggested one thing, that the Nobel Peace Committee had taken note of its last year’s ‘hard to explain’ decision and was wary of inviting any controversy this year.

All these most talked about contenders this year have an inspiring tale of commitment and contribution and they give wings to aspire for more. Dr Sima Samar is head of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. She has had a long history of working on human rights issues and is considered a strong female voice in a country like Afghanistan that has virtually no female rights. It becomes important in the wake of recent reports that Taliban are in talks with the Karzai government to end the civil war there. Democratic Voice of Burma is not-for-profit organization based in Norway that equips journalists to work clandestinely and beam programmes into the iron-curtained Burma, both on radio as well as TV waves. Special Court for Sierra Leone was established court in 2002 after the Sierra Leone government requested the United Nations in 2000 to establish an independent court to try the faces responsible for the civil war in Sierra Leone that broke in 1996.

An argument doing rounds was Liu Xiaobo had lesser chances as 2008 would be the ideal year when the prize should have been announced for him, the year when China held the biggest soft power projection spectacle, the Beijing Olympics, the year when Liu Xiaobo co-authored the famed ‘Charter 08’, an ‘allegedly incriminating’ document as the China mouth organs put it. Ideally that would have given Liu more space to be heard in a country where he does not have the following he deserves except a courageous section of the intelligentsia.

But, still a Peace Nobel to Liu means many significant things for the parties involved – Liu himself, Chinese like Liu, Chinese other than the Chinese elite, China, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and the humanity.

CHINA’S DISSIDENCE ON PEACE NOBEL TO A ‘DISSIDENT’: WHAT’S ON STAKE FOR THE STAKEHOLDERS – II

For Liu Xiaobo: Liu is like a committed Gandhian soldier who employs non-violent means to pursue his larger than life efforts for humanity, to contribute to the process of change. Values like freedom of speech, human rights, democracy are its present day parameters in a post-colonial world. He has endured state sponsored hardship during the 22 years of his activist life that includes the most severe punishment meted out to anyone after ‘challenging state’s writ and inciting subversion’ was included in the Chinese Criminal Code in 1996. He is no Gandhi or Mandela, but he seems to have a vision like them.

At personal level, it will be a big boost for his moral strength to continue with his struggle. The argument, that his limited following may altogether cease to exist as the Chinese government will now ruthlessly pursue the mission to kill any perception related to the name ‘Liu Xiaobo’, may boomerang. The intense cyber activity and widespread Chinese Diaspora will make it hard for any state attempt to stop the spread of word of mouth, and that too in country that has largest number of internet surfers crossing the 400 million mark. In the changed circumstances, the possibility that the Liu Xiaobo is bound to gain ground seems more opportune. After all, we did have differing versions of the Tiananmen massacre; we did have clearer versions of the Chinese crushing of Tibetan and Uighur movement; we did have this to witness the China government on the back-foot, many a times, in the Google row; after all, we did have version of Liu Xia who has been able to express the displeasure on Chinese panic and expression of shock; after all, we did have reports of Chinese arresting Liu Xia. It’s a changed time, even for the middle kingdom.

And why call Liu a dissident. He is more of a proponent of positive change. Perhaps it is not the Charter 08 but the ghost of Charter 77 that toppled Eastern European governments in the pro-democracy wave after it was framed in 1977. The panic shown by a defiant China shows this only.

For China, democracy has a different definition: Off late, there has been much media debate, locally as well as globally about Wen Jiabao’s comments on political restructuring and democracy. But all this talk is within the realm of maintaining ‘one-party’ supremacy and here China finds people like Xiaobo difficult to assimilate in its fold who demand the universal definition of democracy to be applied. One of the demands in the ‘Charter 08’ is establishment of the multi-party system in China, a blasphemy by the standards of the Chinese elite of the day.

Though having a very narrow spectrum, the economic liberalization has started making a dent in the Chinese fortress of one way entry and government fears voices like Liu may give fuel to the unrest that is already being reported. Let’s come to some economic indicators and what they foretell about China of tomorrow.

In 1978, when China opened up its economy, its rural and urban per-capita income was $19.6 and $50.3 that shot to $606.2 and $2018.4, respectively, in 2007. According to latest World Bank figures, the current Chinese per capita income is $3,590. Though impressive growth, the perception about its prowess and mighty status, militarily as well as economically, that the world’s most populous country has been very deliberately developing since 1978, has an inherent risk and it makes people like Xiaobo even more relevant and the decision to award him Peace Nobel a proper one.

China’s per capita income was 2.52% of that of US in 1980 that improved to the level of 4.05% of US per capita income in 2005. Current per capita income of US is around $40,000. So the gap is huge. Chinese rulers are feeding its middle class base with a dream of life of luxury in the days ahead when China will be the world’s largest economy. It is already the second largest when it overtook Japan the last quarter. China’s GDP for the last quarter totalled to $1.337 trillion (compared to Japan’s $1.288 trillion) that is 90 times bigger than what China had in 1978. The dream to chase and bridge this gap is presently the prevailing nationalist sentiment among the burgeoning Chinese middle class. Their income is growing and no doubt, China has tried to distribute the gains to its rural areas too, and where its corrupt system has failed it. Here we need to remember the treatment meted out to the poor while evicting them out of Shanghai and Beijing.

Even by the most liberal estimates, here China might fail in the coming future. Once people are fed-up of what they have achieved, they look for the next level. And the problem is, the swift pace of change in recent times ($2018.4 per capita income to $3,590 in just three year) has made the middle class sentiment change even swifter. The economy growth is bound to slow down and even stagnate in coming years. But, by then China will have a middle class thriving on technological sophistication, connected more to the world and to the Diaspora, and demanding for more and more. When such a huge and aspiring middle class doesn’t get its ends met, it starts questioning the state policies. And given their large population base, it seems like an unachievable task for countries like India and China to surpass the per-capita income of developed countries, if we talk in terms of the perceivable future.

The system that China has right now cannot handle it as it has fed its people with a very glossy future, to the very same people who have survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its factory and rationing system. Anyone who is aware of China’s factory system and the social habitation built around it very well knows about its darkness. Chinese middle class will do anything to run away from it. They cannot not be treated like they were before 1978. But in a crisis situation now, they won’t have any alternatives to look for to express their dissatisfaction, like in a democracy, and that is bound to fuel the unrest. Alternative was out of question way back in 1978. But, is China of the day in a situation to adopt crushing tactics like the Tiananmen? Certainly not. It needs to give its citizens options in case of unrest and it has to decide its formations and configuration.

A crisis situation is handled well by a country when it believes in its subjects, the citizens, or to say more aptly a democracy, that China is not. It can begin a process by assimilating voices like Liu in the mainstream. It should welcome its first Nobel Prize as a way forward to propagate a healthy national debate on political reforms. Economical and political reforms have to be complimentary otherwise China may fall due to its own weight. It cannot have the definition of democracy that it is trying to propagate in the name of political reforms. It needs to have a democracy like that propounded in the ‘Charter 08’.

Otto Hermann Kahn has very rightly said: The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied.

CHINA’S DISSIDENCE ON PEACE NOBEL TO A ‘DISSIDENT’: WHAT’S ON STAKE FOR THE STAKEHOLDERS – III

It is 52 days; 52 days since October 8, 2010. It took 52 days for the Chinese state machinery to crush the Tiananmen Moment of 1989 culminating in June 5 bloodbath from a humble beginning as civilian gathering on April 15, 1989.

So what all China has done in these 52 days this time? Certainly it’s not another Tiananmen of 1989 but it can be precursor of something like what came out of mourning after death of Hu Yaobang in 1989.

The 52 days since the Peace Nobel announcement to Liu Xiaobo has seen a frenetic activity by the Chinese government that tells that the Chinese elite mindset has not changed since the days of the 1989 Tiananmen Movement. The uprising then had acquired a loud and potent formation with its wide outreach and was meted out with an equally crushing and demeaning spread of totalitarian tentacles subsequently. The seed of a potential uprising this time is subtle and it is there, yes the seed may take longer to germinate here because the change now is happening amidst a conundrum of economic, social and political parameters that the Chinese policymakers are still trying to understand.

Not much insight is needed but a keen observation to the response of the Chinese state machinery and of its elite since October 8.

It has virtually arrested Liu Xia – no communication means available. It has cracked down on the members of Chinese intelligentsia who dared speak positively about Liu’s Nobel, arresting some, making some pariah by clipping their wings, defaming them by using its state sponsored propaganda machinery (what else one can expect when you have the whole media acting as your mouth organ – no doubt the huge investment that the Chinese media industry saw was never to get its return), cracking down on communication and social networking means of some, threatening the country’s masses with direct and indirect consequences of even thinking about the name Liu Xiaobo, extending it to other countries through its coercive and threatening diplomacy.

How else we can have a Nobel Committee alleging a country of year’s Nobel recipient of sabotaging the Prize Ceremony as six countries including Russia (no need to mention China) have shown their inability to join the function? December 10 has still 12 more days to go and expect more muscle juggling of China’s coercive diplomacy externally and an over-alert internal security system internally.

What all these tell? Something ominous!

Yes, ominous for the Chinese elite but symbolically opportune for the Chinese masses with its emerging classes and it is interestingly foretelling for the world community.

And what are these factors? The similar ones already discussed in previous two parts of this write-up, a burgeoning middle class, new classes within the class-less Chinese society, their growing connectivity and communication freedom and hence their growing demands of a life, always to be bettered in terms of what a ‘standard quality of life’ means universally.

What all it says of what all that China has done in these 52 days for other stakeholders – – Chinese like Liu, Chinese other than the Chinese elite, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and the humanity – of the decision to award the Peace Noble to Liu Xiaobo!

Amnesty has stated – “As we’re doing right now, there’ll be increased attention paid not only to Liu Xiaobo, but also many of the dozens of other activists who have spoken out, worked really tirelessly, been jailed for promoting freedom of expression, for promoting respect for human rights. The international community will hopefully pay greater attention to the fact that Liu Xiaobo is not alone, in fact, in the activities that he’s been conducting.”

©SantoshChaubey