By Ankur Sohanpal:
It is my belief that most of my generation, widely touted as the future of the world, is unaware of the plight of Burma, and the inspiration that is Aung San Suu Kyi.
Burma got their independence from the British right around the time India did. Unfortunately, after that nothing in the administrations of the two countries bore likeness to each again. The military junta took control of the country’s administration, and that is when all practices of democracy systematically began to be eradicated.
The country had endured almost 40 years of oppression under Ne Win, with him demonetizing notes at random, and then again demonetizing the most popular denomination of new notes issued because his advisor (on superstitious traditions) said that if he did so, he would live onto 90. And thus, they were washed out the savings of the students, farmers and every other financially un-included person in Burma — that is, the majority of the population, thanks to the staunch foreign-trade and progressive-trade discouraging senseless policies enforced by the military junta.
The students protested, taking to walking on the streets. The military cracked down in their usual way, and students reacted in a similar way, and many lives were lost. At the peak of all this, Aung San Suu Kyi, rose to the occasion, coming forth from her sick mother’s bedside, addressing half a million people (during the 1988 uprising/massacre). She asked students, who had been joined by farmers, monks, navy officers, schoolchildren and others from every walk of life to maintain a non-violent stance, and to look forward, in hope, to a democratized Burma. The military junta reacted to the kind of attention the global community gave to the daughter of assassinated father Aung San, and eventually placed her under house arrest. During this time, some 3000 (to 10,000 — estimates are all over the place) people were shot and killed randomly while Ne Win was forced to step down from power.
For the 15 years or so in the last 20 years that Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned, she has fought for nothing but the civil rights of her people, even while she stayed under house arrest, while the world granted her the Nobel Peace Prize (which her eldest son accepted) and even while her husband was diagnosed and killed due to terminal cancer (she chose to not leave the country – while the junta insisted on letting her husband into the country — because she was afraid she would not be let back in, and everything she fought for, for so long, would go to waste).
These are powerful actions, from a woman who was not involved in politics until she plunged in with both her feet. How many of us would sacrifice a happy life, untouched by turbulence, for the people of our country, and stay rooted to our decision in what could possibly be the truest test of the decision? Not many, I daresay, and I admit to chills running down my spine as I read about this inspiring and awe-striking piece of information (and then I also watched The Lady — a movie made on Aung San Suu Kyi’s life, the one that Secretary Hillary Clinton saw before she met Aung San Suu Kyi in person).
Now that the pressures of oppression of the junta which once led to the UN categorizing Burma as the least developed country have clearly subsided (not gone completely, mind you), the public pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi to magically subside the entire nation of the pain that has culminated over and exacerbated for more than half a century is at an all-time high. Her first parliament speech in the favour of helping the ethnic communities was looked upon as a ‘moment-killer’ by many. What they may not in fact know, is the extent to which a move like this is made urgent by the conditions in which the Rohingya Muslims and the Kachin people in Burma live. Their children are malnourished, their food resources low, and both face the similar threat of widespread disease, come the rains.
This woman’s fortitude, in deciding to sacrifice her life for her people, and continuous struggle in a still very hostile environment (as the leader of the opposing party in the Parliament), again — for her people, is awe-inspiring. She has successfully placed herself into the leagues of men like Mahatma Gandhi, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill — except no one possibly underwent the challenges she bore as a woman who will inspire the world for centuries to come.