A STORY OF DISSENT

By now it is well known that Chen Guangcheng, a blind dissident, managed to escape from virtual house arrest in China while being watched by strong- arm thugs of the Government. China is an ancient, civilized country that has become a force to be recognized in today’s world. The US alone owes it billions of dollars. With the largest land army in the world China could not stop a blind man from escaping! Now, he is in the US. What the Chinese authorities say and what they do are two different things. China is a communist country but practices Capitalism. It aspires to become a world power but can't shake off its third world mind set. It wants to modernize its political process while vigorously suppressing freedom of expression and dissent at home. Like an inflated balloon its tremendous expansion in recent years has become its biggest weakness. Those wielding power in China have become intolerant of criticism. The dissidents challenge them at every turn. While the authorities use police and money to destroy dissent, the dissenters work in hidden alleys and secret hideouts. They build underground routes for escape. This happens against every kind of tyranny in the book. Eastern Europe’s anti Communist movement and the Arab Spring of 2011 tell the story. I can relate to this from my own personal experience.

In June of 1975 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared the National Emergency in India - an ancient and civilized country - where a strong anti corruption and anti-Indira movement had taken root. I had taken a prominent role in this movement and had become a target of the Government. So, on the first day of the declaration of the Emergency I was picked up as a” detainee “. By that I did not have to face any allegation or go to trial. Eighteen months later I was released on parole for a month and was to return to prison. During the parole period I was being watched day and night and every movement of mine was being reported to the authorities. If I changed my views, friends told me, my release could be permanent. But I could not change my views. So I was to go back to prison. On my way there, a ten hour bus ride from where I stayed, I managed to escape the country altogether. How did I do that? I had a lot of help. An elderly couple who were freshly released from prison on health grounds carried my passport and coat half way through India. A friend from there gave me the name and address of a journalist in Katmandu, Nepal. The American embassy in Katmandu did the rest for my departure.

All dissidents know that a despotic regime creates its own weakness and they have to learn to use it. The rest of the population may not participate in a movement or hold a placard against the regime or attend a public meeting. But their silent support is all the more potent and they help voluntarily. That is why Chen’s escape did not surprise me. He took risk no doubt. But it was the weakness of the Chinese authority that helped him the most. Dissidents Chen and his friends represent an idea that stands for openness, honesty and fairness in China. No amount of force by the authorities can suppress this. The massacre of Tiananmen Square could not end the dissent in China. Then how could it be suppressed by the house arrest? It is impossible to suppress an idea whose time has come.



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