Tibet: A Fairytale or Ground For Dirty Politics? Do We Care Anyway?

Posted on August 17, 2010 in Politics

By Avani Bansal:

Once upon a time Tibet…was a land of peace… — let me bring you straight to the last chapter — which summarises what’s the story all about — it’s about a nation that was independent and recognised as such by all, later to be annexed by China — and then the ever ensuing silence on their rights, on their freedom, on the wrong that’s been done to them — all because everyone is afraid and this world belongs to ‘reasonable creatures’. There are several books and articles that have been written on Tibet — answering question such as Tibet’s right to self-determination, its legal status, its people in exile, etc, however everyone refuses to act. Why? That itself has been a subject of debate and discussion in several accounts.

But it is precisely this question that haunts me the most. The objective of writing this article is not to compile all the available information on Tibet and the movement for Free Tibet, for it has been done before, and can be done in future, but to me the nerve of the debate is this complacency, this shocking silence. Yes the answer to this is not difficult to find — it is all ‘politics’ you would say. After all Tibet is a domestic matter of China, which is a permanent member of Security Council, an emerging superpower, a nation with which nobody would like to sour relations, especially India. And as long as ‘International Law’ continues to rest on ‘Consent of States’ we have no alternative so to say.

And you might at this juncture be reminded of several such cases where though the entire world realises that something is wrong and that something needs to be done,  but finds itself helpless. The protests during the Beijing Olympics for freedom of Tibetans and determination of their rights is one such example. But why does nothing happen? Yes, I am also told that changes take time, and due to failure of certain issues, we should not discredit the importance and role of International Law as such. But for a young student like me, I fail to understand this inability to act and to question. May be this anger and frustration might be watered down by the addition of years in my age. But I strongly believe that I am not alone and this anger is shared by my entire generation. We ask all those who are serious citizens of this world, to all intellectuals who dream of a better world, to all those writers who have written extensively on International Law, to all International lawyers, to each and every one of you, can Humanity afford any ‘excuses’ not to act, not to fight for the right, at this crucial juncture of our existence when human beings themselves have in their hands the potential to destroy the world umpteen times, leaving behind not even a shred of evidence that might prove human existence on Planet Earth for centuries.

All of you, with your heads buried in the books, irrespective of whether you believe in Capitalism or Communism — will you not agree with what Marx said —“Philosophers have interpreted this world, the point however is to change it”, and the importance of this observation in today’s power-hungry world. But let me not be dismissed as a Utopianist.

Being a law student , I am puzzled, when I see law journals filled with articles expressing the mastery of the subject and the depth of knowledge that humanity possesses today on any given topic or issue. Right at this moment, there are conferences, seminars and paper presentations going around the world discussing some relevant topic of the day. But why does nothing change at a pace that we can see? Why does every discussion end with the limitation of International Law, with the power show of USA and other developed countries, the helplessness of each one of us. Who would rectify this? Who would raise questions? Do we understand that arguments can only take us a little farther but not the farthest. For this world lacks spiritualism, and lacks the spirit of all those noble souls whom we idealise, about whom you continue to teach us in our classrooms, only to forget it ourselves. Take any issue and questions can be raised, and answers be given, but still nothing happens …

The Tibetan Question can be looked at from different angles. This story whenever narrated revolves around some basic questions —

  • Are Tibetans Chinese people?
  • Was Tibet historically a part of China or was it a free nation?
  • Why did China send its forces to Tibet in 1950 and whether this act constitutes the crime of aggression in International Law?
  • Why did Tibet sign away its sovereignty only to make so much noise later by repudiating the Seventeen Point Agreement on June 20, 1959?
  • What is India’s stand, and did India appease China and betray Tibet?
  • What is the legal status of Tibetans, and their government in exile having its separate constitution? Do they have a right to self-determination?
  • Why was the Tibetan question never addressed by the UN or the International Court of Justice even in the wake of the report of the International Commission of Jurists in 1959-60 affirming that the crime of Genocide was committed by Chinese in Tibet, human rights violated, and the in view of the Legal Inquiry Committee throughout the period 1912-1950 the Government of Tibet exercised exclusive authority in domestic affairs within the territory?

Do we have the answers? Yes we do… depending on which side of the fence we are. So the solution is to let an independent body decide the fate of Tibetans. And who else than ICJ can do the job better. A body in which all nations repose their faith, whose composition is the fairest, and whose credibility and integrity has never been challenged by anyone except USA. But would China agree. Of course not! So what do we do. Nothing. Why? Because as a nation if I openly urge in favour of this proposition even if I do believe it to be right, I will face disastrous consequences. Firstly invite open wrath of China, which would lead to severance of relationship between my State and China. This will have an impact on the trade between the two, thereby affecting my nation’s economy. China’s anger might affect me in the longer run as well, after all it is a permanent member of the Security Council, without any support of any nation in my favour. Worst, my own countrymen will not forgive me for this, I will have to not only lose my seat of power in my country but shun any dream of getting so in future. Further I will be criticised for interfering in the internal affairs of another nation, with a whole bandwagon of International lawyers decrying my act. And most importantly if I raise my finger at another state, will I be able to remain safe. For by arguing against ‘Sovereignty’ being used as defence to justify any act, I will myself open my nation’s borders vulnerable and open to question the policies of my nation in front of ICJ too.

What do I gain? Nothing. What do I lose? A whole lot and more. Why then would you respond? Yes I am talking to all those at the helm of affairs, at the helm of power, the kings and queens, so called, or self-proclaimed atleast in their own thoughts. For once believe what ICJ said — “State are abstract entities.” Yes, we are also taught that “all Economics is International and all Politics is National”, but for once shun all teachings and think about the future of this world, of the road that we have taken, and the world that you are leaving behind for me, my generation. Think and answer. For once, speak.

They say, Chinese are good people and so is everybody else. I know not what or who is she afraid of. But for me Tibet’s story will always remain a fairytale which starts with ‘Once upon a time…..’