On Aamir Khan’s decision to carry the torch

There are good reasons to carry the Olympic torch. Aamir Khan gave the worst one.

Aamir Khan, it has been reported, has turned down pleas by Tibetan refugees, fans, friends and some members of his family not to carry the Olympic torch on its Indian leg on April 17th.

His decision is in sharp contrast to that of Baichung Bhutia, the Indian football captain. Mr Bhutia pulled out of the programme as a personal protest against the China’s handling of the protests in Tibet.

It is not at all surprising that Mr Bhutia’s decision was hailed as heroic, and Mr Khan’s criticised. Indeed, if Mr Khan had only justified his decision based on the need for an Indian citizen to respect the Olympic spirit on the grounds that the Olympics ought to transcend politics, like Kiran Bedi did, his decision too would have been praiseworthy. It would have invoked the Longbottom principle.

Unfortunately, Mr Khan went on to justify his decision by belittling his own country. As B Raman writes in an open letter to Mr Khan, and as The Acorn pointed out when M K Bhadrakumar made a similar argument a few days ago, it takes a particular form of moral deficiency to equate China and India and the way they deal with disaffected citizens.

There can only be contempt for those who draw this specious analogy and hide behind the I-am-against-any-form-of-violence amoral pacifism.

That Aamir Khan made this comparison should disqualify him from carrying the torch on behalf of India. The torch should be carried by those who are proud of the values that India stands for.

Shame on you, Mr Khan.

Update: Aamir Khan is carrying the torch on behalf of the Coca Cola Company, and not a representative of India. The difference is important. It is a decision between him and his corporate sponsor. Given his repugnant perception of his own country’s values, it should only be a good thing that he is not “officially” representing India. But this does not mean that his comments are any less excusable.

68 thoughts on “On Aamir Khan’s decision to carry the torch”

  1. I humbly disagree with your viewpoint on Aamir Khan in general. There is no way anyone can claim that Aamir Khan is not proud of the values that India stands for. Through his profession, he has obviously proved otherwise. He is one Indian who believes in taking accountability of being Indian, and doing what he can with his contributions first, instead of pointing fingers and crying ‘shame on you’. Of improving Indian society. Of inspiring others to do so too.

    The fact remains that what Aamir said is true — no country is immune to political situations that inherently and inevitably offend some groups of people.

    And yes, I think he has done a heck of a lot more than most Indians ever would dream of doing for their country. Some might not agree with that, and that’s okay. But India *does* agree.

  2. Indian,

    I am inclined to accept the argument that one can “improve society” by artistic accomplishments. I’m not sure what you mean by “taking accountability for being Indian”; I suppose every one of us who speaks out on public issues—including those who comment on this blog—take accountability for being Indian in their own ways.

    If Mr Khan had spoken about domestic issues at other fora—as he has in the past—it would be worthy of respect. Some of us might disagree with his views, but certainly not seen his views as being worthy of contempt.

    In this case the context and implication is important. Anyone who respects India’s national values, its own struggles as a diverse, democratic society and, despite the imperfections, how unique it is in this world would not say what Mr Khan said, at such a moment.

    Btw, your poor opinion of other Indians is unwarranted. A heck a lot of Indians dream of doing a lot more for their country than Mr Khan ever did. Most of them don’t even get paid for what they do. You notice the ‘contributions’ of celebrities because they are celebrities. The real heroes don’t vie for public attention.

  3. >>> can a man who is not proud of his own country’s values carry the torch for India?

    I seem to have missed the part where Aamir Khan said that, or even where he implied it , in that post.

    Nitin, please help me locate it.

    Thanks,
    Jai

  4. Jai,

    Of course he didn’t say so explicitly. That’s the implication of the justification he makes on his blog:
    Similarly, I have the highest respect and regard for the struggle that the people of Iraq, Kashmiri Pundits who have been displaced, Kashmiris in general, and the people of Palestine, are going through. I have named above just a few instances of human rights violations. Across the world, and indeed within our own country too, there are several instances and examples of atrocities and human rights violation, which are still continuing.

    Do read the links to my post on Bhadrakumar and B Raman’s open letter on why this position indicates moral deficiency.

  5. Jai,

    Anyone who sees no difference between India and China is insulting the values India stands for. Mr Khan need not stand from the roof top and say that; his failure to distinguish between a thug state like China and an India, an imperfect democracy but democracy no less, is astounding. As Mr Raman points out, then, perhaps even Hitler shouldn’t be criticized because is there any country in the world which is free of violence?

  6. I’m not too sure how you managed to conclude what you did and not sure if Aamir Khan deserves any ‘condemnation’. He did mention Kashmiri “Pundits” and even if that was just to sweeten the pot, the gist of what he says is right. Let those who are playing the boycott game play their little games, let India and Indians respond the way they see fit. Good on Bhaichung, but pouncing on Aamir is quite rich given that India is in fact participating and the torch is “officially” in India (I know, the state has its hands tied etc.). There’s plenty of people who have an axe to grind when it comes to Aamir and one can already see the “commie” and “psec” epithets come out.

  7. Nitin
    I think you are being too harsh on Aamir Khan.
    While we can justifiably be proud of Indian achievements and the superiority of Indian handling of seccessionists , I sense danger in importing American style “We are special and morally superior” and the resulting hubris.
    Secondly Don’t we all resent the smug sanctimonious lectures of human rights by EU states ? We were subjected to some lecturing on death penalty when the Government was trying to extradite gangster Abu Salem.

  8. Nanda Kishore,

    but pouncing on Aamir is quite rich given that India is in fact participating and the torch is “officially” in India

    In fact, I’ve defended the right of those who want to participate in the run and in the Olympics. There are good reasons for this.

    My only criticism is about dragging India into the matter. Where was the need? It was not even an off the cuff remark, but one that was made on the blog. And the fact that other people have axes to grind against him should not prevent us from calling him out on this one.

  9. History Lover,

    I sense a bigger danger in falling for the dubious argument that all nations are alike because they all abuse human rights of their citizens. It might even be a fashionable one to make—but those who make it do not know what it is like to live under tyranny. Read B Raman’s arguments and try answering him.

    We have every reason to be proud of our values. If we do not believe these norms are indeed superior, then just how do we make an argument to improve their imperfect practise in daily life? If constitutional democracies and dictatorships are alike, then why take the trouble to hold the democratic state to account? On what moral basis does one conduct democratic protest, legal challenges and political agitation if what we are seeking is not morally superior to what we have?

  10. Nitin and Rohit,

    I have several largish areas of agreement with B.Raman’s letter. The sole bone of contention is ‘respecting Indian values’. I am inclined to overlook the comparisons he brought up, or not take them so severely as you have.

    If you wish to get legally ‘scrutinous’, I dont think he has equated India with China with that ‘similarly…’ or is NOT seeing any difference btwn India and China.

    I agree with Aamir’s larger point that it would be difficult to hold the Games anywhere if we get into a no-human-rights- violated anywhere conditionality. I think its to lead up to that point that he introduced that logic.

    At around this point… “The Olympic Games represent for me the coming together of different people across the world despite their differences and difficulties.” ….

    Aamir is getting into that Olympics is beyond politics line. He signs off with a strong support for Tibet. Overall, I think he did OK.

    Besides per Nitin’s update, looks like its on contract for Coca-Cola! I actually admire the tight-rope walk he’s executing.

    I would like to have values that allow me to question things or make comparisons the way Aamir did, even when they are erroneous or a tad exaggerated. Now those are the values I’d be proud of. Its not shameful of one’s Indian identity or pride to make even mistaken comparisons. Let’s all be a little less quick to have our national prides insulted.

    Thanks,
    Jai

  11. Jai

    I would like to have values that allow me to question things or make comparisons the way Aamir did, even when they are erroneous or a tad exaggerated. Now those are the values I’d be proud of. Its not shameful of one’s Indian identity or pride to make even mistaken comparisons. Let’s all be a little less quick to have our national prides insulted.

    Here’s a conundrum for you: would you or Aamir Khan be able to do this in China? If not, aren’t the two countries different? If they are different, isn’t the comparison flawed?

    His larger point is correct, but it’s a straw-man argument. The point was not merely whether human rights are being violated: but the context in which they are being violated. Or do you not see the difference between the manner in which Kashmiri pandits, other Kashmiris and Tibetans are being treated? [Forget the immense elephant in the room that the Tibetans live as refugees…in India! The people in question seem to have had no problems in assessing which country has superior values]

    As for the Coca-Cola tightrope: I would have been the first person to defend him had he said that he has a contract with Coca Cola, and he must respect the sanctity of the contract. Dissing India to avoid being seen as being beholden to his corporate sponsor is…admirable?

  12. Nitin,

    I think Aamir hardly tries to equate China with India and his comments are largely towards “amoral pacifism” – as your correctly point out, rather than any attempts to belittle India.

    While he does cite examples of violence across the world and attempts to equate them (wrongly), he does not raise the point of China’s or India’s or Israel’s responses to such violence – and hence the question of equating China with India doesn’t arise. While the comments on his blog may have exposed his limited understanding on the subject, there seems to be no mal-intent in them and hence we should not rush to condemn him for it.

    I agree with B Raman’s comments more than yours – he has a basic problem with Aamir participating in the torch run rather than how he justifies it. However, while we should commend Baichung’s decision not to participate, it is probably a little too much to expect our celebrities to be politically aware (which Aamir is) as well as make the right decisions (which Aamir has not).

  13. Nitin, agreed, Aamir’s comments were not off the cuff remarks and he should have refrained from dragging Kashmir into the mix. Perhaps he hasn’t yet been introduced to the concept of moral equivalence – or, possibly, given his political inclinations, it was quite a well considered statement that made all the points it intended to. Don’t think all that makes him not proud of the values India stands for (hard to assess in any case).

    PS: The ‘Gujarat’ chanting has begun in right earnest (as on Raman’s blog)!

  14. Vimal,

    While the comments on his blog may have exposed his limited understanding on the subject, there seems to be no mal-intent in them and hence we should not rush to condemn him for it.

    How can we establish the intent? I could reasonably argue that he chose to diss India because he didn’t want it publicly known that his contract with Coca Cola didn’t allow him any other option.

    Should we then simply give him the benefit of the doubt? No, I don’t think so. Because the canard of moral equivalence must be shown for what it is. Especially when it comes from public figures who can shape public opinion.

  15. I am afraid the Tibet-China contest is as unequal as a Brazil-India soccer match. With the US dependent on China for the very existence of the dollar and the European states selling their technologies body and soul (not to mention India that is afraid of china’s military might) no one is really going to stand up for Tibet except people like Richard Gere. Amir only reflects the official position of India and he has been bolder than the govt.
    On the other hand, are kashmiris and kashmiri pundits to be equated with Tibetans? A very interesting question that will provoke a multitude of debates that can only be good for India’s human rights record. If the olympics were to be held in New Delhi will the Kashmiris be ready to carry the torch or boycott it?

  16. I fully endorse Nitin’s, or anybody else’s attempts to discredit the comparison between India and China that Aamir has (IMHO weakly) made. Its hardly a difficult task given the very obvious differences that B.Raman for instance has highlighted.

    I just weigh more strongly in favour of those who can make that case without getting into, Aamir’s “repugnant idea of national values” that people who are not Aamir Khan, I would imagine, would have some difficulty in perceiving so clearly as Nitin appears to.

    regards,
    Jai

  17. If the Olympics had been in New Delhi, Aamir Khan a pretentious Chinese actor making these comments about some Chinese province (instead of Kashmir), he would have within a day of the blog appearing, been declared a “splitist”,locked up and the key thrown away. That he is an Indian in India talking about Kashmir and that we are having this civilised discourse, itself shows up the differences between the two nations. He is a torch bearer on c(C)oke and perhaps befuddled. Free publicity and all that…

  18. History-lover and co.,

    If in the context of discussing a minister who conducts rape someone points out that a bulk of the population indulges in eve-teasing, that is somewhat tantamount to conflating rape with eve-teasing.

  19. I must confess to being a bit mystified by the intensity of Nitin’s reaction here: that cvelebrities often say banal things on “serious” issues is of course hardly new to anyone; but like some commenters here I fail to see anywhere how and why Aamir Khan has displayed contempt or shame at being Indian, or run down his own country (the real beef on this sort of issue should be with his film Fanaa, which presented rank dishonesty by Yashraj films in an attempt to troll for non-Indian desi audiences overseas, by means of a film that explicitly stated that India and Pakistan were victims of Kashmiri terrorism — I’m sure the secessionist groups in question are mystified). I read Aamir as simply making the point that if one boycotts the Games because of China’s human rights track record, don’t be surprised if someone boycotts your games some day because of your track record. This is no equation of China and India — this is simply a clear-eyed and realistic assessment of power politics. If India is/becomes a powerful country, EVEN IF its human rights record were far worse than it is today, there would be fewer protests at a hypothetical Olympic Games held in India; conversely, EVEN IF its human rights records were a lot better than it currently is, there would be a lot more protests at those hypothetical games if India were/becomes a much weaker country. Where’s the moral equation here?

    Second, to recognize the reality of people’s sentiment on an issue is not the same as “equating” India with anyone else. For instance, I see no contradiction between a position that says: (i) Kasmir is part of India and should remain so; and (ii) It is not hard to imagine a world where people boycott our events because of Kashmir, and hence we should be careful about what we do with respect to Tibet and China’s Games. I in fact hold both these positions — on Nitin’s logic I am “worthy of contempt” and apparently an India-hater. I would resist any such characterization, and resist this sort of reading of Aamir’s words.

    Stated differently, the question is not India’s record vis-a-vis China’s, but the obvious reality that when decisions about boycotts etc. are made, no-one ranks human rights atrocities and decides to only protest “the worst ones”. Gordon Brown’s government wouldn’t have been caught dead in Baghdad when Saddam ruled — but is there any doubt that Saddam Hussein is a petty butcher when compared to the millions and millions of deaths the Communist Party in China has been responsible for? Brown has no such issues with showing up in Beijing. Personally I seriously question the value of such boycotts in raising human rights consciousness (I do support boycotting them if the games/events THEMSELVES are a human rights violation. For instance, if apartheid South Africa were to have held games where blacks and whites would have to sit separately in stadia, etc., I would support a boycott of those games). Even within China, Tibet has become a cause celebre because, well let’s just admit it, few things are “cooler” than Buddhism. My heart goes out to the Tibetans, but hardly anyone seems to have heard about or cares about the situation in Xinjiang, where a cultural extermination is very much in progress.

    Finally, and somewhat tangentially, I note that Aamir’s reference to Kashmiri Pandits should not be dismissed: he hardly NEEDED to bring them up (most omit mention of those longtime sufferers), but nevertheless chose to do so. That’s a good thing in my book.

  20. Re: “Even within China, Tibet has become a cause celebre because…”

    Correction: I meant to write “Even with respect to China…”

  21. Qalandar,

    It is useful not to discuss hypothetical events and reactions. No point discussing the number of horns on a unicorn when unicorns don’t exist.

    The main point is not so much boycotting the Olympics, or even refusing to run with the torch, but rather, finding it necessary to talk about atrocities and human rights violations in India. That’s the issue at hand here.

    No, the treatment of Kashmiri pandits is not relevant here. The atrocities against pandits were conducted by terrorists, and India’s failure in this case is the inability to provide security to them. How is this relevant in the China-Tibet context (unless of course, we are sympathising with the Chinese government’s failure to provide security to the Han Chinese settlers who were allegedly set upon by Tibetan protestors. Unlike Han Chinese, though, the pandits always belonged to Kashmir).

    I’m surprised at the argument that celebrities should be let off because they often say banal things. Really? Even when you consider that Mr Khan is projected as the thinking Bollywood star, Citizen Khan etc? Even if not, a quick slap on the wrist is a good way to prevent more people from repeating the ‘banality’.

  22. Qalandar,

    I read Aamir as simply making the point that if one boycotts the Games because of China’s human rights track record, don’t be surprised if someone boycotts your games some day because of your track record.

    Contrary to what you state later, this quoted statement does pit India’s record against China and in my opinion, that is the crux of Nitin’s opposition to Aamir’s justification. China has definitely been the worst violator of human rights and the subsequent stifling of political or cultural opinion against its record and although India’s record is not spotless, it is far better than China. Of course, people are free to boycott events in India based on our human rights transgressions but the fact remains that our government largely does not approve or condone such transgressions. If Gujarat is cited then you might note the vociferous internal condemnation of the same internally. I doubt you would see that in China. My opposition to China is only in the way it handles protests however peaceful they might be and for this, no condemnation is harsh enough.

    Finally, check out this picture of the Olympic torch relay:
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/photo.cms?photoid=2924660
    You would think the Chinese are protecting it from Al-Qaeda and not largely peaceful Buddhist protesters. Security overkill? Intimidation? Suppression of valid protests? Olympic Games are and cannot be separated from politics (’36, ’72, ’80 and ’84 has reminded us over and over again)

  23. Re: “I’m surprised at the argument that celebrities should be let off because they often say banal things.”

    There’s no “argument” there — my point is that to read the sort of coherent India-dissing statement you seem to in Khan’s words, when he hasn’t even come close to saying any of this, is odd GIVEN the celebrity track record (btw, this is not inconsistent with Khan being considered the “thinking man’s actor” — just check out Preity Zinta on the tsunami (writing for BBC) and you will find yourself missing Aamir’s blog :-))

    I guess my main “question” is because I’m somewhat bewildered — I see a disconnect between Aamir’s words and your commentary (this is a genuine question; i.e. ideological disagreement is one thing, but here I see a disconnect between “cause” and “effect”, as perhaps do some other commenters).

    In any event, there is nothing overly abstract/hypothetical about the issues I’ve raised: countries with a lot better human rights record than China have been, are, and will be penalized more than China; countries with a lot worse human rights record than India have been, are, and will be criticized less than India. It’s no hypothetical to say that we live in a world where discussions of human rights cannot be separated from the broader political, ideological fabric/context, what-have-you. In such a world, there is no “moral equation” between India and China that I read Aamir to be positing (and I don’t say that because celebs don’t matter; when I do see Bollywood positing such an equivalence, I would be the first to protest: see e.g. http://www.naachgaana.com/2008/03/24/perennial-us-and-them/#comment-115016).

  24. Patrix: your post assumes that people only boycott Games when the violations rise to the level of x, and that if they were <x, then no boycott (hence if someone says India < China, but could still suffer a boycott, such a person is engaging in moral equivalence of India and China). I disagree with this assumption. It seems rather naive to me to hold such a view, and in fact these very Games prove my point (China’s human rights record is WAY worse than many countries that the UK for instance complains about, yet Gordon Brown would not dream of a boycott. He certainly would have boycotted the games if they were being held in Iran no? And it is unquestionably the case that the ayatollahs are kids vis-a-vis the People’s Republic when it comes to human rights violations).

  25. Re: “Olympic Games are and cannot be separated from politics (’36, ‘72, ‘80 and ‘84 has reminded us over and over again”

    I agree 100%. Neither can boycotts or penalties associated with human rights violations.

  26. The fools who say that sports and politics should not be mixed have niether understood “sports” nor “politics”.

  27. Prasanna: Not sure I follow your point: i.e., unlike Nitin, it seems to me you are objecting to ANYONE carrying the torch, for any reason, because of what China is doing. If so, then Aamir is small fry: shouldn’t you be criticizing not just every torch-bearer, but the Indian government (and every other government) for taking part in the games in the first place?

  28. Howdy Qalandar.

    Let’s what Amir Khan claimed:

    “Similarly, I have the highest respect and regard for the struggle that the people of Iraq, Kashmiri Pundits who have been displaced, Kashmiris in general, and the people of Palestine, are going through.”

    And

    “In fact if we were to try and find on this planet a place to hold the Olympic Games where the government of that place has not been responsible for human rights violations (in one way or the other), then I suspect that we would be left with very few options”.

    Which is pretty interesting.

    No nation is completely free of human rights violations, true, but by the same token, there are no people who are not victims of human rights either. Not only Kashmiri Pandits and “Kashmris in general”, but Telugus in general, Tamils in general, North Indians in general, South Indians in general, dalits in general, brahmins in general, Christians in general, Hindus in general, Israelis in general, and even Americans! (9/11) in general, ALSO have their own struggles. There is nothing very special about the “struggle” of “kashmiris in general”.

    But Khan doesn’t forget to make a special mention of “Kashmiris in general”, while not forgetting to clubbing all agressors in one broad category of human rights violators. Ergo, if despite this evidence you were to offer the argument that he wasn’t dissing India, that argument sounds like a strong statment of your personal belief in him than any rational argument based on fact. Perhaps you’d like to explain?

  29. I’m not surprised that the people here are not buying Nitin’s argument which is patently absurd imo. Many of the above points are dealt with, but I’ll mention another one.

    Aamir Khan has a few other examples, not only Kashmir. He also mentions Iraq. Have you called upon some celebrity to boycott some American event to protest the slaughter in Iraq? If you have, let me know, I’ll be very interested. Of course no analogy is perfect, there are differences between Tibet and Iraq:

    a) Tibet is (or should be) an autonomous internal region of China, Iraq is not in the US.
    b) Aggression is the “supreme international crime”, according to the UN charter and the Nuremberg principle (made by the US itself), which “encompasses all the evil that follows”.
    c) There’s not just “cultural genocide” going on in Iraq, it’s actual genocide (more than 1 million by the Oxford Research Bureau, about the same extrapolating from the Lancet 2006 study on Iraq).

    And many more, but I won’t go on.

    The point here is not that Aamir Khan is very noble or whatever. Aamir Khan has to decide for himself whether he wants to be part of China’s PR extravaganza. Whether he wants fame or money or some solidarity with other people is for him to decide. But he’s very small fry compared to even the official Indian govt. reaction on Tibet.

  30. Anand,

    The argument is not whether or not someone has a right to protest against something happening in Tibet. I’ve not called upon Mr Khan to protest (or not protest) against the events in Tibet. Rather that he uses a very wrong reason for this and that is shameful.

    So asking me whether I call upon someone to protest US actions in Iraq is beside the point. But I would certainly call out anyone who justified his criticism (or lack thereof ) of US actions in Iraq by equating that with J&K.

  31. People here find your argument not merely ridculous, Anand, but downright ludicrous. This debate is not about boycotting Coke and Pepsi, or giving exhortations for the same, like that silly dramatist, Comrade Arundhati Roy. Hence you shouldn’t be wasting your breath demanding that people boycott this and boycott that. Pls leave that to the Roy types, and read the question I posed to my good friend Qalandar.

  32. It appears that the definition of ‘people’ here is no different from that in DPRK and I, being someone who agrees with Nitin here, is counted out. As for people in general, Mr Khan seems to expediently skip the people of Darfur, for which too China bears more than a fair share of responsibility, and so the state of Sudan.

    As for the Lancet study, it has been called up for the case of liberal activism that it was. If Mr Khan feels so much for “people of Kashmir in general” he should speak out loudly rather than indulging in such stealth smearing. It needs some thick skin to compare India with countries that blatantly use hired guns as the only tool for addressing grievances. There is no moral equivalence between what passes on in Darfur or Tibet and any place within India.

  33. Oh, and I haven’t heard anyone calling for banning Saudi Arabia which has neither religious nor human rights. Since consumption of petrol is directly related to people’s livelihood how about a symbolic boycott on religious trips to Saudi Arabia?

  34. Duma Dum Mast: to be honest any response here would simply involve a regurgitation of my previous comments; I direct you to them, but to directly answer your question: no, I do not think Aamir Khan was dissing India (and yes, I think he reflects the sort of “lazy liberalism” that one sadly sees all too often among the Indian media elite (though not just the Indian media elite) — he is very far from being the worst offender on this score).

    socal: Re: “Since consumption of petrol is directly related to people’s livelihood how about a symbolic boycott on religious trips to Saudi Arabia?”

    Personally I think this is a needless “upping of the ante” in this discussion. It seems like the height of bad faith to suggest that Muslim Indians compromise on their religious observance when evidently no-one else should even try to minimize their use of petrol as part of a “symbolic boycott”? (Industries yes, but do we really need the SUV?). This sort of statement seems particularly odd when the Government of India is — through ONGC — a partner with the genocidal jihadis in power in Khartoum no?

  35. Aside: Personally I think China (and, while we’re at it, France) is/are far more responsible for the Rwanda genocide, a sadly under-reported aspect of the situation there. Akin to the Nixon administration’s arming of the Pakistan army even after everyone and their mother knew the genocide in East Pakistan had begun, in 1994 the People’s Republic apparently kept shipping vast quantities of sickles to Rwanda — in quantities large enough that they could have no agricultural use for a country of Rwanda’s size. [Source for the above is Philip Gourevitch’s “We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with our Families”.]

  36. Re: “The point here is not that Aamir Khan is very noble or whatever. Aamir Khan has to decide for himself whether he wants to be part of China’s PR extravaganza. Whether he wants fame or money or some solidarity with other people is for him to decide. But he’s very small fry compared to even the official Indian govt. reaction on Tibet.”

    I agree on this. Personally I was far more outraged by the Indian (non-)reaction to China protesting the PM’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh! While I was foaming at the mouth at this display of servility (a habit I have become practised at, at least since the Foreign Minister decided to personally escort terrorists to Kandahar, one of whom proceeded to get married in Multan and a second made a name for himself by murdering Daniel Pearl), I must confess I find it hard to get exercised about Aamir defending himself carrying the torch in the terms he has here — as to that I agree with Nitin’s characterization of it as the lazy tendency to equate everything everywhere, which I see as distinct from a particular Indiadiss (the French foreign minister had a good line, saying do we want to be more Tibetan than the Tibetans, a reference to the Dalai Lama himself saying he didn’t want a boycott of the Olympic Games).

  37. And this off the main topic, but (my opposition to the Iraq war, and dismay at the criminal incompetence displayed by the Bush administration after the invasion, notwithstanding) I do not think it fair to term the deaths in Iraq as “genocide.” Simply put, genocide is defined in international law not in terms of number of deaths but intent — undoubtedly the USA bears some/significant measure of responsibility for the deaths of god knows how many people in Iraq. However, that isn’t a genocide, since no-one can seriously argue that the aim of the USA was to kill as many Iraqi civilians as possible.

  38. Re: “…and I haven’t heard anyone calling for banning Saudi Arabia which has neither religious nor human rights”

    On this logic, one couldn’t discuss any issue unless one were simultaneously discussing every other issue that falls into the category. For instance, I am as personal matter far more likely to be exercised about gender inequity than racism; i.e. recognizing that as an intellectual matter racism is not something can be condoned, it just so happens that my blood tends to boil over more on another issue. Should Princess Diana not have had the right to mobilize people against landmines because there are other weapons she could also have mobilized against? Yes we haven’t heard any calls to ban Saudi Arabia; we also haven’t heard any calls to ban Russia, the Philippines, and Chad either.

  39. Re: “There is no moral equivalence between what passes on in Darfur or Tibet and any place within India.”

    In all fairness, I should note that your “Darfur OR Tibet” betrays the same sort of slippage that is being read to betray an anti-Indian bent on Aamir Khan’s part. It is not at all clear to me that the two involve the same sort of atrocities-in-progress, or the same scale of atrocities (I am open to being convinced otherwise, but it seems to me that Darfur involves rape, and ethnic cleansing, on a scale that is not true of Tibet). I hope we all take the position that “ranking” these sorts of atrocities is unfortunate and untenable (how many zeroes does it take to make a bona fide horror?), but using the logic of some on this thread, I think it’s a fair criticism that Darfur and Tibet should not be lumped together. Darfur seems far worse to me; Rwanda even worse-ER; and — but this gets to be silly after a point.

    Re: “There is no moral equivalence between what passes on in Darfur or Tibet and any place within India.”

    I quite agree. But I can only applaud this sort of sentiment if it is meant to sensitize us toward maintaining our proud record of being better than many, and improving upon it (if the aim is to silence all complaining voices with the “Well be thankful this ain’t the People’s Republic! or _______!” then the sentiment itself becomes complicit). As I see it “human rights” is not a point that is attained, a destination that is reached — instead it is an aspiration that is striven towards (and never really “reached” — when one determines one has done “enough”, complacency sets in; and pluralism and “human rights” are fragile enough that they do not easily bear the weight of complacency).

    I’ve rambled enough. Thanks for taking the time to read these thoughts.

  40. Hello Qalandar,

    >>to be honest any response here would simply involve a regurgitation of my previous comments

    It is disappointing that you do not have an answer to my question, for I was hoping I could have an interestiting debate with you. If all of us merely regurgiated our dearly held subjective beliefs, we’d all sound as dogmatic as CPIM’s press statements: “no facts, no debate, this is our party’s view, take it or leave it”.

    To repeat my question (in case you change your mind and take the robust argument route to this conversation rather than re-assert your unshakeable faith in Khan):

    Like Khan said, there is no nation that is free of human rights abuses (there is nothing special about communist brutalities in Tibet), and there are no people in general who are not victims of human rights abuses (nothing special about those killed in Iraq, much less about those who fell victims to the odd extrajudicial killing in Kashmir or elsewhere in India). Khan’s defence of his decision to run with the torch could have been as simple as stating this one sentence, and getting on with his business. His deliberate mention of Kashmir however, and careful avoidance of mentioning the names of most flagrant human rights violators in the world today (communists and Islamists), ipso facto disses India.

    Now of course as a big fan of Khan you might ardently believe that Khan couldn’t have dissed India. But that flies in the face of evidence, and your inability to explain away the evidence compounds your problem. Let me help you by suggesting another alternative that leaves Khan’s honour intact, somewhat.

    How about this: His invention of a moral equivalence between India and China could have been more out of ignorance than an intention to slight India. Ignorance of the nature of communism, perhaps, that the ideology kills as a matter of routine, that it remains the greatest genocidal influence in the world today. Hence his inability to tell between a democratic India and a Communist China.

    Note that this makes Khan merely guilty of ignorance, and not of intentionally insutling India, and not even of barely disguised communal prejudice.

    What say, Qalandar?

  41. The answer to your question is in my previous comments in this thread; it seems to me you have not bothered to read them (though I am somewhat heartened that you seem to have moved from a position of “Aamir was dissing India” to “his mention of x but not y amounts to a diss of India). As for your insinuations that I am some kind of Aamir-groupie, or that Aamir might somehow be displaying “barely disguised communal prejudice”, those are cheap shots for which I find evidence lacking. I find it hard to take your urging me to a debate/discussion seriously when the tone of your comments (such as “Now of course as a big fan of Khan you might ardently believe that Khan couldn’t have dissed India. But that flies in the face of evidence, and your inability to explain away the evidence compounds your problem. Let me help you by suggesting another alternative that leaves Khan’s honour intact, somewhat”) is to the contrary.

  42. Re: “…much less about those who fell victims to the odd extrajudicial killing in Kashmir or elsewhere in India…”

    Now this is off topic, but the notion that there has merely been “the odd extrajudicial killing” in Kashmir flies in the face of all the evidence. There have been far too many over there (including far too many by our soldiers, who must of necessity be held to a different standard than militants) to be dismissed as if they merely occurred once in a blue moon. Nor is there merely “the odd extrajudicial killing” elsewhere in India: the number of fake “encounters”, in-custody deaths, torture, etc. is an endemic problem, not just the odd occurrence. India’s cause is served by striving for better, not by closing our eyes to what goes on every day.

  43. Re: “The nature of communism, perhaps, that the ideology kills as a matter of routine, that it remains the greatest genocidal influence in the world today.”

    The history of communism is there for all to see, but this is a factually incorrect statement: simply put, communism is not “the greatest genocidal influence” in the world today: most of the recent genocides/large scale ethnic cleansings in the world have not been “influence[d]” in any meaningful way by Communist ideology (I am thinking of Rwanda and Darfur, and on different scales Sierra Leone, the Balkans etc.). I think a more correct statement would be that the catalogue of Communist crimes is not as well-known as the catalogue of high-fascist crimes — thus most Indians are in my experience simply unaware of the death toll exacted by Stalin, Mao (and others), whereas it is rare that one will have no clue about the Nazi genocide.

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