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Nobel torments comrades - Left focuses attack on committee, not Chinese laureate

October 14, 2010

J.P. Yadav
The Calcutta Telegraph
October 10, 2010

Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo broke down in jail
today when his wife finally managed to visit him
but don’t expect the comrades of China to betray such bourgeois emotions.

The CPM has chosen to remain largely inscrutable
on the Nobel Peace Prize choice that has
infuriated Beijing, not yet parroting the
withering language China has used to refer to the democracy campaigner.

To be sure, some Left leaders have criticised the
Nobel committee for "politicising" the award,
although the CPM and the CPI have so far
refrained from issuing official statements.

But the Left’s reluctance to call Liu names like
"criminal" -- the official word handpicked by
Beijing — reflected its nervousness at being
tagged “anti-democratic”, a label that doesn’t
sit pretty when elections have to be fought.

The tiptoe points to the sticky predicament the
prize poses for the Indian communist leadership:
how to echo China without stirring uncomfortable
questions among fellow travellers and champions
of countless causes about the fetters on basic freedoms behind the Great Wall.

Indian Left leaders are largely focusing on
whipping the Nobel committee, skirting tricky
questions like the 11-year sentence on the
literary critic for “subversion” and the
inability of his wife to meet him till today.

Allowed to meet his wife Liu Xia on Sunday, Liu
told her in tears that he was dedicating the
award to victims of a 1989 military crackdown on
pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.
Tianenmen has always been a sore point for Indian
communists who could never convincingly explain
to the generation of the 1990s why tanks had to
be sent in to crush demonstrators seeking political reforms.

The uneasiness showed today, too. "The anti-China
lobby is at work and it has been done at the
instance of the US that is out to disrupt China.
The peace prize is to encourage anti-China
activities,” the leader of CPM in the Lok Sabha,
Basudeb Acharia, told The Telegraph. Acharia,
however, refused to field any other question on the issue.

CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta questioned the
decision of the Nobel committee but refused to
react to the imprisonment of Liu.

Dasgupta picked on a technical point. "It is more
a political decision. A person who works for
reduction of international tension and end of
conflict should be given such award. But this
person is a human rights activist. How can he be given this award?" he asked.

Another leader cited "politicisation" -- a
catch-all word that could be a virtue as well as
a vice in the shifting sands of public life. CPM
central committee member Nilotpal Basu said his
party was not reacting as it believed the Nobel
Peace Prize had become "too politicised."

Not that the CPM does not officially react to
matters Chinese. The CPM had spoken about China
in the political resolution the party adopted at
the extended central committee meeting at
Vijayawada in August. The resolution said the
economic power of the US was declining while that of China was growing.

Why the communists were reluctant to swivel the
arc lights to the persecution of Liu was evident
from the misgivings among the Left
intelligentsia. The Left-leaning China expert,
Prof. C.P. Bhambhri, criticised the Nobel
committee’s decision but termed Beijing’s
reaction "foolish." "The way China has reacted is
foolish, They should ignore the US," he said.

Marxist economist Prabhat Patnaik declined to
react on the ground that the prize had nothing to with economics.

Where the CPM was reluctant to tread, the
Trinamul Congress waded in with gusto. "It is
very sad that a person who was awarded this
year’s Nobel Peace Prize remains imprisoned in
China. All freedom-loving people should condemn
the Chinese government’s inhuman treatment to
Liu,’ said Saugata Roy, Trinamul junior minister
for urban development. Asked if this was his
party’s stand, he replied in the affirmative.

If the CPM was uncharacteristically restrained,
the Congress could not hide its glee, though the
ruling party took care not to say anything that
could affect bilateral relations.

"The Nobel Peace Prize is a very prestigious
award. The selection committee comprises of
distinguished people. They must have applied
their mind in the selection," Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said.

The UPA government is also said to be sharing
this opinion but it is unlikely to articulate such a position and nettle China.

Other than the Left, most parties in the
Northeast applauded the peace prize choice --
their reaction suggesting few are shedding tears over China’s discomfiture.

Asom Gana Parishad vice-president Apurba
Bhattacharjee said: "Being citizens of a great
democracy like India, we see it (the choice for
the peace prize) a very positive development."

The prize has also injected a sense of optimism
among the Tibetan community in the hills and in Sikkim.

The prize has been announced at a time a
perception has been growing that the
international community was putting economic
pragmatism above moral values while dealing with China.

Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), a community of
Tibetan students, echoed this sentiment. "At a
time when world leaders" are softening their
approach to human rights and Tibet with the
Chinese government, the Norwegian Nobel
Committee’s decision is highly commendable," an email from the SFT said.

With inputs from Barun Ghosh, Vivek Chhetri and AP
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