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Suu Kyi’s sunny days

With her Buddhist beliefs that truth and compassion were two vital elements in building human character, she believed that in order to be truthful and compassionate, one had to be fearless, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Oct 26, 2007 23:33 IST

Not many Indians are aware that the Burmese prisoner of conscience and Nobel Laureate has close Indian connections. She lived in India for some years, went to school and college, made many Indian friends, and above all, was affected by Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings.

Suu Kyi was the daughter of Aung San, who led the Burmese freedom movement, won its independence in 1948 and became the first head of state. He was assassinated a few months later when Suu Kyi was only two-years-old.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) was led by members of Suu Kyi’s family. In 1960, her mother Daw Khon Kyi was appointed Burmese Ambassador to India and Nepal. Suu Kyi, who was then 15 years old moved to Delhi with her mother. She passed her school leaving exam from Jesus and Mary Convent and joined Lady Sri Ram College. In the three years, she spent in LSR, she studied history and Political Science concentrating on the role of Mahatma Gandhi as a political and spiritual leader.

They were the most formative years of her life. With her Buddhist beliefs that truth and compassion were two vital elements in building human character, she believed that in order to be truthful and compassionate, one had to be fearless.

In her book Freedom From Fear, she wrote: “Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate our actions, courage that could be described as “grace under pressure” — grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.”

There were many incidents in which the frail, young woman showed courage, which defies description.

After getting her degree from the Delhi University, Suu Kyi proceeded to Oxford. There she met Michael Aris, an Oriental Scholar, fell in love with him and married him.

They had two sons Alexander and Kim. After acquiring her degree from Oxford, she and the family moved to New York where she worked with the United Nations. All through these years, they came back to Burma several times and also visited their friends. She and her sons spent a few days in my villa in Kasauli.

Meanwhile, the situation in the country was reaching a critical stage in the confrontation between democratic forces and military dictatorship. In April 1989, Suu Kyi decided to return to Burma to lead the forces of democracy. She showed her mettle.

A procession she was leading was halted by soldiers with their guns. The major leading them ordered the processionists to disperse or she would open fire on them. Suu Kyi asked her followers to stop and marched to the major. She told him, “You shoot me first before you open fire on the unarmed protesters.”

The major lost his nerve and ordered his men to retreat. Three months later Suu Kyi was arrested. He husband was denied a visa to come to Burma.

In the elections that followed in May 1990 the NLD, led by Suu Kyi, swept the poll getting 82 per cent of the votes cast.

No further proof was needed to find out who spoke for the people of Burma: it was Suu Kyi and no one else. In 1998, Suu Kyi’s husband was hospitalised in London with cancer of the prostate.

The Military Junta was willing to give her permission to go to London on condition that she would not return to Burma.

She refused to accept the condition and was unable to be with her husband when he died a few months later. In 1991, Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

The Military Junta was again willing to let her go to Sweden to receive it on the condition that she would not return to Burma. Again, she refused to accept the condition. The award was accepted on her behalf by her younger son Kim.

Suu Kyi continues to be held in detention: sometimes in prison, at others in her own home.

At times, she has not enough to eat and has lost a lot of weight. Visitors are carefully screened before they are allowed to meet her. She has been virtually cut off from the world. Yet the light that emanates from her shines all over Burma and the freedom-loving people of the world. It is time, India takes a sympathetic look at its eastern neighbour.

Thus spake Mahatma Modi

I am a strong believer in Gandhi’s philosophy And therefore the worst carnage in Gujarat's history;

My Gujarat is a welfare state, where there is no room for sectarianism, violence and hate. And hence, the riot-victims of 2002 are fear-stricken till date. Why call me a murderer? What have I done ? In fact, Sectarianism dharma is my only religion. Only my critics has a negative vision. All I have done is to work out a strategy whereby elections in other states can also be won. Otherwise, I am a staunch believer in Gandhian philosophy. And Ram Rajya is my USP. In fact, I am the present-day Gandhi.

(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

Knee problem

Question: Don’t you think Atalji is too old to continue as the leading light of the BJP?

His knees have given up and he has had to have them resign gracefully. Answer: Never! what have false knees to do with leadership. Everything above his knees is in good working order.

(Contributed by K.J.S.Ahluwalia, Amritsar)

First Published: Oct 26, 2007 23:27 IST