|Dr Rammanohar Lohia|
While ‘political’ India is fast degenerating, we are celebrating the centenary of a political giant of another age: Dr Rammanohar Lohia.
George Fernandes rightly wrote: “[Lohia] was a political seer whose foresight into events always put him in a situation of being at least twenty years ahead of his time.”
An issue on which Dr Lohia had an incredible foresight is the invasion of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China in October 1950.
The Socialist leader immediately stated: “China has invaded Tibet which can only mean that the giant has moved to rub out the life of a child.”
He made clear his position: “Tibet's present rulers may or may not be reactionary and tyrannical but of her independence from foreign control there can be doubt” (Nehru also knew this. In November 1950, he spoke of Tibet as a nation ‘verging independence’).
When the India Government decided to accept the Chinese violent action as a fait-accompli, Lohia noted: “to call the invasion of Tibet an effort to liberate three million Tibetans is to make language lose all meaning and stop all human communication and understanding. Freedom and slavery, bravery and cowardice, loyalty and treason, truth will become synonyms.”
Unfortunately, the leadership of the time did not have the political vision to anticipate the consequences of the Communist rulers’ actions.
It is not that Lohia did not believe in friendly relations with China, but he wanted a dignified relation: “Our friendship and esteem for the people of China will never dim, but we must state our conviction that the present government of China will not be able to wash out the infamy of this invasion and baby murder”.
To close his eyes on the most imperialist deed of the 20th century was Nehru’s sin; by allowing it, he did not enhance India’s friendship with China, but only became, to put it in Mao’s parlance, a ‘lackey’ of Beijing.
Lohia had another remarkable argument: if India and China were really friends, Delhi should advise Beijing in a ‘friendly’ manner to withdraw its army from Tibet and “offer its services in the arranging of a plebiscite [for the Tibetan people to choose their future]”.
More than 60 years later, one can see the consequences for India of the ‘baby murder’: an unfriendly neighbour, a constant military threat and a ‘disputed’ border’.
As for the people of Tibet, they lost their century-old independence; they have been victims of constant human right violations and their peace-loving civilisation is on the verge of extinction.
But there is another consequence which touches the entire Asia: it is the control of rivers of Tibet which provides fresh water to most of the populations of China, Indo-China and the sub-continent. By killing the ‘baby’, Beijing robbed the Tibetan plateau and most of Asia of its water resources.
During the last decades, China has gained a great expertise in dam building. In recent years only, 25,800 large dams have been constructed in China; it is more than any other country on the planet.
From where are the dammed rivers coming from? The answer is obvious: from the Tibetan plateau! By controlling Tibet, China controls the Roof of the World’s rivers.
Since a few years in Beijing, powerful lobbies work hard to get the government’s green light to recklessly continue the construction of hydropower plants; the Chinese kowtow is even now exported: Chinese banks and dam companies are involved in the construction of some 269 dams in 67 different countries, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia …and PoK (legally an Indian territory).
Unfortunately, there is no free meal: these projects have forced the relocation of more than 10 million people and have caused unimaginable damage to the environment (India does not want to be left behind, the business is too lucrative. A recent BJP report on the functioning of the Congress governments in the Northeast has equated the ‘hydropower project scams’ in Arunachal Pradesh with the 2G scandal).
An article published in the ‘official’ Global Times shows the Chinese lobbies have even been able to revert a decision taken by Premier Wen Jiabao in April 2004. Wen had then given an assurance that the large hydropower plants on the Tibetan plateau and on its marches would be “seriously reviewed and decided scientifically.” As a result, for several years, not a single major hydropower project received the green light from Beijing.
With the 12th Five-Year Plan, the wind has changed. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) noted the ‘scientific’ change: “analysts say mainland authorities have clearly pinned their hopes on renewable energy such as wind, solar and hydropower, to help reduce the mainland's reliance on coal amid mounting concern over the country's environmental woes and huge carbon emissions”.
Weng Lida, former head of the Yangtze River Water Resources Protection Bureau told the SCMP: “Power companies and planning authorities have apparently gained an upper hand in the debate over hydropower development and used the need to cut carbon emissions and pollution as an excuse to gloss over problems resulting from irrational dam-building across the country."
Tibet’s resources are now fully utilized by China (it is also true for mineral deposits). In the name of global warming and environment protection, the dam lobby is able to restart their nefarious activities on the plateau. The provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan (formerly the Kham Province of Tibet) are particularly famed for the abundance of waters (the three Parallel Rivers: the Mekong, the Yangtze and the Salween flow from there).
The dam builders — often managed by Princelings or children of Politburo members — have been biding their time. With the new policy (announced along with the 12th Five-Year Plan), they will make a killing using the huge hydro-potential of Tibetan rivers; ironically with an ‘environmental’ rationale.
The ‘planners’ of the Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Planning and Design of the Ministry of Water Resources are delighted, they will be able to build enough hydropower stations to reach their 83,000 megawatts target. The temporary ban had resulted in less than one third of the proposed projects in China's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) being constructed.
The powerful development lobbies are back with a vengeance. Wang Jian, a river specialist from Beijing who visited sections of the major rivers in December told the Global Times that smaller projects, which do not need Central Government approval, have burgeoned, "They are as dense as the stars in the sky", he said.
Some local officials told the Economic Observer, a Chinese weekly considered as one of the best economic publications in China, that 60 tributaries of Salween will be dammed (42 hydropower projects have been completed and 88 are in the pipeline).
Though the dam lobby says: “Building hydropower stations actually helps protect the rivers and the environment," many do not share his opinion. Dai Qing, a senior journalist believes that the present trend will show that China is always one step behind the world. "In many Western countries, dam builders are out of favor, but here in China, we are still busy building dams."
Wang Yongchen wrote an op-ed in The Global Times: “In the past, hydroelectric power has been assumed to be a clean energy, since it consumes no fossil fuels and emits no pollutants. However, plenty of recent scientific research suggests that the environmental consequences of the construction of dams and operation of hydropower stations are considerable”.
He gives the example of the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas resulting from the decaying forests submerged by the higher water level. Many in China still remember the Banqiao Dam. Built on the Ruhe River in 1952 to ‘control’ the Yellow River, it collapsed on August 8, 1975. Though it was designed to withstand a ‘one-in-1,000-year’ flood, it was washed away and 26,000 people died in a few minutes. Later 145,000 people perished from epidemics and famine. The number of people affected by the disaster exceeded 12 million. In 2005, a Discovery Channel program rated the disaster as No.1 on a list of the ‘Top 10 Technological Catastrophes of the World’ before Bhopal. All this was before Fukushima and considering that these dams are built in highly seismic zones, one realizes the tremendous danger of an unwise policy.
The building of dams on the Salween, Mekong or Brahmaputra has also strategic consequences for the countries downstream.
Unfortunately in India, the Union Ministry of Power believes that a “timely grant of environment and forest clearances for the proposed hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh is crucial to ensure India’s right over the Brahmaputra”. This is a legal non-sense for the simple reason that India and China are not bound by a convention or a treaty (like the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan or the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses).
All this shows the tragic consequences of the ‘baby murder’; Tibet might have been a ‘baby’ in terms of military power, but its strategic position and hydrological potential as well as its age-old civilization made it a giant amongst nations.
In April 1959, a few days after the Dalai Lama escaped to India, Dr Lohia spoke again about Tibet: “A fundamental lack in foreign policy opinions is that they are formed not on the anvil of the question of justice or injustice, but around such passing considerations as national interests, party interests or personal interests. [In 1950], the Indian government had such friendly relations with the China government that no party or leader in India dared to speak boldly on the Tibetan issue.”
In 1959, it was already too late: Mao controlled the Rood of the World.
The problem is, as the Socialist leader said: “People worship power, however merciless.”
Sixty years after the murder, heads of state still run to Beijing to know-tow to the new emperors and accept their diktats.
The recent resignation of the Dalai Lama as the temporal leader of Tibet would have pleased the ‘democrat’ in Dr Lohia. Already in 1959, he wrote: “The political authority of the Lamas must be brought to an end. It is said that the Chinese are doing that. But the China government is doing it at the point of bayonet and thus it may turn out to be worse than the Lama rule itself. The efforts of sane people should be directed towards awakening the Tibetan masses so that their attitude towards the Lamas may change and the rule of the Lamas may be liquidated.”
In the present case, though the vox populi wanted him to stay, the Dalai Lama ‘liquidated’ his political avatar in his own. Quite a democrat!