Not the friends in need

Suu Kyi's audience at Vigyan Bhavan were not those who stood by her, it was the impassive establishment

If India had stood solidly by the forces fighting to restore democracy in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi may have made this country her first stop when she travelled to receive encomiums around the world. Considering the strong influence of Mahatma Gandhi's teachings in her life, and her stay here as a student when her mother was Burma's ambassador to India, it was the obvious first choice. This did not happen, mainly because India shied away from speaking plainly for democracy and non-violence to the Burmese military regime during its harshest avatar. The stiff establishment aura at the Jawarharlal Nehru memorial lecture at Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan demonstrated the government's inabilty to understand the true meaning of democracy.

Indians of all shades who had actively raised their voices for democracy in Burma for over two decades were as eager to see and hear Daw Suu as the struggling refugees from all parts of Burma who had fled here from the prospect of jail and death. Sadly, Vigyan Bhavan's officialdom saw to it that all such activists, both Indian and Burmese, were shunted upstairs to the overcrowded balcony, and that too under duress. Elite spaces were reserved for safe establishment faces, most of whom had never bothered to utter a public word in favour of democracy in Burma. Among the many relegated to oblivion were retired foreign secretaries, prominent human rights lawyers and civil rights activists, prominent political figures, and the bulk of the Burmese population who have spent their years marching and shouting, "We want demo-cracee!" to the world. Many who had occupied Parliament Street or demonstrated outside the Burmese embassy, presenting petitions on behalf of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, eluded official consciousness. This fiercely committed and passionate crowd, whom Daw Suu would have considered the real "people" of India and Burma, was considered too unimportant to be invited. They were clearly the forgotten torchbearers of the Burmese democracy movement in India.

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