Kolkata Police Side with China, Stop Tibetan Rally
By Dr. Richard L. Benkin
While Tibetans have captured the sympathy of most peoples around the world, the communist rulers of West Bengal, India, remain an exception. In a late night call to the Tibetan Solidarity Committee on Wednesday, police in Kolkata abruptly withdrew permission for Tibetans to hold a peaceful rally in the West Bengal capital. The rally was scheduled for the next day, April 10, 2007, and had drawn hundreds of sympathizers from all over India’s northeast.
A spokesperson for the Tibetan Solidarity Committee, organizer of the rally, Indo-Asian News, “the Kolkata police had given us written permission two weeks ago for Thursday’s candle-light rally in memory of the lives lost in the [recent] Tibetan unrest. Suddenly Wednesday night, Deputy Commissioner of Police Vineet Goyal called us and said we have been denied permission.”
One West Bengal resident, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government reprisals, told me that the action was “only what we have been saying for [years], that CPIM is pro-Chinese. The CPIM or Communist Party of India Marxist has ruled the Indian state for almost three decades, during which time there have been ongoing and persistent allegations of excessive Chinese influence over the CPIM, as well as close ties between the two. Several other residents of India’s northeastern states also said that last week’s action only confirmed the cozy relationship.
Spokesmen for both police and the Chinese consulate in Kolkata city attributed the denial to an alleged agreement between India and China “that no anti-China and anti-India rallies will be allowed respectively in the two countries.” Neither, however, addressed the fact that the rally had previously been approved without incident and that the questionable commitment to which they referred is evidenced more in its breach than in its implementation. Most international observers refer to “a pro-Pakistan tilt” by China, which has sometimes resulted in public demonstrations over the years. Moreover, India has seen numerous pro-Tibetan rallies during the past two months, especially in the northeast. For instance, just two days before the rally was scheduled in Kolkata, two members of the Tibetan parliament in exile led a demonstration of hundreds in Guwahati, the largest city in the neighboring Indian state of Assam. In fact, violent rallies have broken out all over India’s northeast, especially near the Chinese/Tibetan frontier, but this is the first time that the alleged Indian-Chinese agreement has been invoked. Finally, India is a democratic country that guarantees its peoples’ right to free speech and assembly. China, of course, is another matter.
There is another dimension to this conflict. Since 2004, at least, an alliance between Communists and Islamists has been emerging in South Asia, with each offering the other safe havens and other means of support. Given that, the Chinese should not be surprised at the pro-Tibetan rallies throughout India, a gift of its pro-Pakistani and anti-Indian positions over decades. Many Indians—particularly those living near the long border with Islamist Bangladesh—see any crackdown on minority or ethnic rights within that conflict. Explaining the Kolkata police’s actions without reference to these greater geo-political considerations is naïve at best and according to most observers, more likely disingenuous.
In a related development, police in Tripura (a neighboring Indian state) announced the arrest of Huji terrorist Md. Mamun Miya. According to police and others in the region, the Islamist had been living under the protection of Md. Shahid Choudhuri who is Tripura’s Minister for Food, Youth, Welfare, and Minority Development. Shahid Choudhuri is a member of the CPIM: the same party that rules West Bengal and refused permission for last week’s pro-Tibetan rally.
- Asian Tribune -