Letter: India's China syndrome

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 08, 2010 20:11 hrs


The title of Sanjeev Sanyal’s article "Is India nearing its own Tiananmen?" (December 8) is too provocative to go unchallenged.

Unlike China, India’s free and democratic political system allows much, arguably too much, freedom of thought and expression (not to talk of belief) – whether it is inside Parliament or in public rallies all over the country from Kashmir to Singur and Lalgarh – with minimal or no restraint from the authorities. This freedom includes the near-unfettered right of vendors and others to occupy footpaths in many cities. Such freedom of expression and occupation – often to the detriment of the rights of other stakeholders – is unheard of anywhere else in the world.

Moreover, India’s political system has allowed the previously poor and disadvantaged people to not only come up, but grab power, both at the Centre and in the states — take, for example, Lalu Prasad and Mayawati.

So, when Sanyal says, "Conditions are ripe for a structural shift", that is an understatement. This structural shift has been on in India since the late fifties when the first non-Congress Leftist government came to power in Kerala — and is now gathering pace and a possibly irresistible momentum. How can the question of a Tiananmen arise in such a vibrant democracy?

Alok Sarkar, Kolkata


Sanjeev Sanyal’s article suffers from broad swathes of generalisations and assumptions. According to Wikipedia, the Tiananmen Square incident lacked any "unified cause". The protests were sparked off by the death of a popular leader known for his pro-democracy stand.

The central issue here is that all the revolutions mentioned coincided with the "age of awakening" or Renaissance, which was marked by a surge of learning based on historical sources and gradual but widespread educational reforms. Also, "pro-democracy" ideas had effectively taken root in China, and people wanted to experience a "change".

In the India’s case, on the other hand, there has been a total decimation of its sense of cultural history and thought process. Hence, it is difficult to foresee Indians "rise(ing) up to the occasion" and overthrowing the might of the government.

Abhishek Puri, on email

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