Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tolerance and Tolerance

My article For real intolerance, see China template appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer today.

Here is the link...

India, with a population of over one billion souls, has obviously some fools, some big-mouths and even some intolerant individuals. But in my 41 years in this country, I always experienced a very, very tolerant country

In India, one debate follows another; the latest is about ‘tolerance’. I never really understood what this ‘tolerance’ issue was about. It appeared rather to be a new ideology for settling political scores, but after it culminated in a ‘national’ debate in  Parliament, I became more curious.
The dictionary says that it is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own.” It also means “the act or capacity of enduring”.
There is, however, something strange in the current wave. A bunch of ‘eminent intellectuals’ started returning national awards. It is odd because these type of awards are usually given by a state (specifically India in this case) for meritorious actions or behaviour; they are not presented by a particular political party (they are usually given by the President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan); so, why return an award to the state simply because one is not happy with the present Government? It does not make sense. The only explanation is that these ‘eminent intellectuals’ were not aware that it was not the present-day Government which honoured them, but the nation.
In my country of origin, France, The Legion d’Honneur is conferred by the President of the French Republic, who is the Grand Master of the Order. It is said that this highest award should not be asked for, should not be refused and should not be returned. For a Cartesian mind, it seems logical; but it is probably not so for the ‘eminent’ Indian intellectuals. However, it does not mean that ‘intolerance’ does not exist in India and elsewhere in the world. However, in any such debate, it is important to avoid double standards. Today, we are witnessing this, particularly when it concerns China.
Take a recent post on the UN official Weibo account in China: The UN Committee Against Torture questioned China insistently over issues such as judicial independence and the use of ‘black jails’.
Responding to the post, Xu Xin, a professor in the law school at the Beijing Institute of Technology, affirmed: “So, what punishment should the United Nations get for improperly discussing China’s legal system?”
A lawyer, Yang Junfeng, added: “My solemn advice is that we detain and interrogate the UN Secretary General for having the impudence to improperly discuss the policies of the Central Party.”
Does this happen in India? No. The China Media Project, an organisation based in Hong Kong, says that it “symbolises the Communist Party’s intolerant attitude toward dissenting views under the leadership of President Xi Jinping”. The term ‘improper discussion of the policies of the Party’, after being included in the Party’s new Disciplinary Regulations released on October 21, triggered a short-lived debate in China, before being ‘deleted’.
According to Article 46 of the Regulations, “Improper discussion of the fundamental policies of the Central Party authorities, causing damage to the centralism and unity of the Party, will in serious cases result in expulsion from the Party.” A number of other ‘improper discussions’ are cited.
Now take Anastasia Lin, the winner of Miss World Canada; she was barred from boarding her flight from Hong Kong to Hainan, to participate in this year's Miss World contest. Why? Simply because Lin had dared to speak about China’s human rights abuses. After her ban, she told The New York Times that she was not entirely surprised. “I have every right to be at that event. It’s kind of sad. …What could they possibly be so afraid of?”
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa explained: “China welcomes all lawful activities organised in China by international organisations or agencies, including the Miss World pageant. But China does not allow any persona non grata to come to China.” Nobody protested.
A report (in Chinese) from Studies in Ideological Education, a publication of China’s Education Ministry, recently suggested that “big data” could be used to track the political views of university students. Prepared by the propaganda department of a university in Chengdu, it advocated creating a “political ideology database” that pulls data from library records, surveys, social media, and other sources to collect “quantifiable, accurate, and personalised information” and “improve the effectiveness of ideological education”.
The report further reveals: “Collecting and analysing data on ideological behavior, can reveal trends in students’ thinking and values, as well as the social issues they are paying attention to.” Earlier, Big Brother used the flawed logic of experience and intuition. Now it is scientifically done! Have you heard any intellectual protesting?
Their ideological leanings perhaps make them look at China as a great example for India to follow.
A couple of days ago, Reuters reported that, according to Chinese officials, the Barkhor area in Lhasa, which witnessed serious unrest in Spring 2008, has become “one of the safest places in China”, though an official explains that it is thanks to a sophisticated on-the-ground surveillance network.
Reuters gave some details: “Guard posts erected among shops and in courtyards around the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa watch the comings and goings of residents. The posts are manned by locals who are selected by the residents’ management committee [of the party], though some appeared to
be unstaffed.” A year ago, the Chinese Government has set up a ‘grid management surveillance system’ using Tibetans to watch fellow Tibetans; it explains that Beijing is now able to manage the Tibetans “without gaps, without blind spots, without blanks”.
Choedrak, the Lhasa Party Secretary confirmed: “This is a Chinese specialty, where the masses participate in managing and controlling society and they also enjoy the results of managing their society.” Examples could be multiplied. It is not only the ‘intellectuals’ who should be blamed. Phunchog Stobdan, a former Indian Ambassador and scholar, wrote a piece in the Sunday Guardian entitled, ‘World is ditching the Dalai Lama’: “The global political scenario is amazingly changing in China’s favour. Nowhere is this so symptomatic than the way Beijing is able to win the war against its arch-enemy the Dalai Lama. It appears Beijing has finally managed to pin the Tibetan leader down by deploying every political prowess and economic arsenal to constrict his global outreach. …The leaders in the West …are abandoning him one by one.” In today’s world, when China is concerned, tolerance has become everybody’s mantra. This is the real tragedy.
India, with a population of over one billion souls, has obviously some fools, some big-mouths and even some intolerant individuals, but in my 41 years in this country, I always experienced a very, very tolerant country, only a bit too tolerant to corruption and dirt.

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