Friday, February 17, 2012



The recent hardline statements from the Han rulers of Tibet expressing concern over the situation in Tibet and their determination to crush the so-called splittist movement is a reflection of their nervousness. This nervousness is the result of their inability to understand what has been going on in the Tibetan areas of China and to crush the post-2008 Tibetan emulation of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent strategic resistance movement called the Satyagraha meaning the struggle for the truth.

2. The Chinese managed to crush the violent uprising of 2008, but they have not been able to crush the Tibetan yearning for freedom. They have not been able to eradicate the Tibetan love for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and their devotion to their Buddhist religion. They have not been able to destroy the Tibetan pride in their identity.

3. The Tibetans---particularly the GenNext--- realised that a better way of asserting their pride and independence and keeping alive their hopes for the end of what they consider as the Han colonisation of Tibet would be to emulate Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent struggle against the British colonial regime in India.

4. Thus was born the Lhakar movement. Lhakar means White Wednesday---- a day associated, in their eyes, with the soul of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Every Wednesday, thousands of Tibetans---men, women and children---- are meeting in their villages and towns to take the following pledges:

I am Tibetan. This is my national flag.

I am Tibetan. I wear Chupa(tibetan dress).

I am Tibetan. I eat dried cheese.

I am Tibetan. I work for Tibetan Struggle.

I am Tibetan. I eat Tsampa (Tibetan staple food).

I am Tibetan. I drink Tibetan salted butter tea.

I am Tibetan. I speak Tibetan.

I am Tibetan. My parents are Tibetan. My leader is His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

I am Tibetan. I am a disciple of His Holiness.

I am Tibetan. My father is a Tibetan.

I am Tibetan. Tibetan blood flows in my body.

I am Tibetan. I will continue to work for Tibet's Struggle.

I am Tibetan. I am proud of being Tibetan.

I am Tibetan. I am Thangka painter and an activist for Tibet's Independence.

5. They express their determination to preserve their Tibetan identity and their refusal to be assimilated into the Han culture and identity. Eat Tibetan, Speak Tibetan, Dress Tibetan, Think Tibetan, Live Tibetan, Die Tibetan--- that is their motto.

6. The Tibetans themselves describe the Lhakar movement as follows: “ Lhakar is a homegrown, Tibetan self-reliance movement that started in the aftermath of the 2008 uprising. In spite of China’s intensified crackdown, Tibetans have embraced the power of strategic nonviolent resistance. Every Wednesday, a growing number of Tibetans are making special effort to wear traditional clothes, speak Tibetan, eat in Tibetan restaurants and buy from Tibetan-owned businesses. They channel their spirit of resistance into social, cultural and economic activities that are self-constructive (promoting Tibetan language, culture and identity) and non-cooperative (refusing to support Chinese institutions and businesses).”

7. The Lhakar movement has unnerved the Chinese. They do not know how to stop its spread. The resistance movement has taken other forms too---- self-immolation by Tibetan monks---- since March last year, there have been 24 self-immolation attempts, of which 22 ended in fatalities--- insistence on keeping the pictures of His Holiness in the monasteries, refusal to fly the Chinese flag and exhibit the pictures of Chinese leaders in the monasteries, refusal to observe the Chinese New Year’s Day, refusal by monks to perform their religious duties in monasteries in which Chinese security forces are posted, refusal to attend the so-called re-education camps organised by the Chinese Government and party authorities.

8. The Chinese have sent reinforcements of their security forces to the Tibetan areas and cut off all Net connections. Despite this, the movement is showing no signs of abating. On the contrary, it is gathering strength.

9.Gandhiji’s non-violent struggle finally succeeded against the British and forced them to quit India. Will the Tibetan non-violent struggle succeed against the Han Chinese? The Han Chinese are more ruthless than the British. The Tibetans would need the moral support of the international community---particularly India--- to keep their struggle alive and triumph finally. Even if considerations of RealPolitik prevent the Government of India from extending moral support to the Tibetans, Indian public opinion should not let them down. They are emulating our own freedom struggle. They are following in the footsteps of our own legendary leaders who fought against the British. The Indian public opinion has a moral obligation to empathise with the Tibetan satyagraha and support it morally. ( 18-2-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )



Of all the Chief Ministers, who have protested against the proposed creation of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in the Intelligence Bureau of the Government of India with effect from March 1,2012 without consulting the State Governments, only J.Jayalalita, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has got it right.

2. She has made it clear that her objection is not to the creation of the NCTC to strengthen our counter-terrorism capability. Nor is her objection based on fears of dilution of the principle of federalism.

3. Her objections are to two features of the proposed NCTC mechanism--- the powers of arrests and searches sought to be given to the NCTC, which will be a division of the IB, a clandestine intelligence organisation, and the provision for the setting-up of inter-State intelligence teams by the NCTC.

4. She has reportedly described these provisions as highly objectionable and said that the powers of arrest and searches given to the IB through the mechanism of the NCTC under Section 2 ( e ) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967 “can be misused to suit ends that are motivated by reasons other than fighting terrorism. Moreover, setting up of inter-state intelligence teams by the NCTC is tantamount to usurping the legitimate rights of the States.”

5. I would not agree with her fears regarding the proposed inter-State intelligence teams. Such teams may be necessary to deal with pan-Indian terrorist groups such as the Indian Mujahideen which have their sleeper cells right across India in many States.

6. But, I do share her fears about the possible misuse of the powers of arrest and searches by the NCTC Division of the IB against political opponents by branding them as associated with terrorism. During the emergency of 1975-77, Indira Gandhi had many of her political opponents arrested by having them branded as threats to national security.

7. A Government with authoritarian reflexes in future may be tempted to misuse the powers of arrest given to the IB through the NCTC for having political opponents arrested by having them branded as associated with terrorism.

8. The IB is a secret intelligence organisation. It has no accountability to Parliament in respect of its work. We do not have a system of parliamentary intelligence oversight committees. We depend on the executive without any checks and balances to ensure that the IB functions according to the law of the land.

9.The British, during their colonial rule, did not consider it necessary or wise to give the powers of arrest and searches to the IB for any purpose. They observed the sacred principle that a clandestine intelligence collection agency should not have the powers of arrest. None of the Governments that had held office in New Delhi since our independence had considered it necessary or wise to give such powers to the IB.

10. The practice of giving powers of arrest to the intelligence agencies was started by Lenin and Stalin when they set up the KGB, the all-powerful Soviet intelligence agency, in order to enable it to deal with so-called counter-revolutionaries. Many other authoritarian countries have since given these powers to their intelligence agencies.

11. The IB has till now not had these powers. In spite of that, during the Emergency there were serious allegations of the misuse of the IB and the CBI by the Indira Gandhi Government to harass the opponents of the emergency. Instances of such misuse were documented by the Shah Commission and the L.P.Singh Committee set up by the Morarji Desai Government to enquire into them.

12. If there could be such gross misdeeds when the IB did not have any powers of arrest, imagine how much more could there be when a clandestine organisation, not accountable to Parliament, is given such powers on the ground that those powers would be required to deal with terrorism.

13. Congress spokesmen defending the NCTC mechanism have sought to ridicule those criticising the objectionable provisions of the NCTC as opposed to strengthening our counter-terrorism capability. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The opposition is not to the NCTC as such, but to some objectionable features of it.

14. Instead of standing on false prestige, the Government of India should have a re-look at some of the worrisome features of the NCTC mechanism in consultation with other political parties and State Governments. It is not just a question of respecting the principles of federalism. It is a question of adhering to the principles of a genuine democracy. ( 18-2-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )



( To be read in continuation of my article of January 13,2012, titled “ a Counter-Terrorism Czar In Indian Colours” at )

There has been an avoidable and unfortunate controversy over the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which, according to the media, is to become operational from March 1,2012.

2. Going by the media reports on it, the NCTC, which is meant to co-ordinate intelligence collection, analysis and assessment and follow-up action in matters relating to terrorism, will differ from the NCTC set up in the US after 9/11 in two important respects.

3. In the US, the NCTC is an independent institution functioning under the supervision of the Director, National Intelligence (DNI). It co-ordinates the functioning of the counter-terrorism divisions of the various agencies of the Intelligence Community. The chiefs of the various intelligence agencies having any role in counter-terrorism do not have any powers of supervision over it. The idea of making it independent was to ensure that it would take an objective view of the functioning of the counter-terrorism divisions of different agencies and ensure proper-coordination. The expectation was that being an independent agency, its functioning will not be affected by inter-agency clashes and egos.

4. As per the media reports, the NCTC being set up in India will not be an independent institution. It will be part of the IB and Director, IB, will supervise its functioning. This could come in the way of an independent audit and supervision of the functioning of the counter-terrorism division of the IB. Whatever deficiencies are there presently in the exercise of the counter-terrorism functions of the IB will get duplicated and magnified instead of being identified and rectified.

5. The post-9/11 creation of the NCTC in the US was meant to strengthen the preventive capability by improving the collection, analysis and assessment of terrorism-related intelligence and effective follow-up action. The 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US were attributed to inadequate intelligence and unsatisfactory follow-up action even on the intelligence that was available. The same was the case in India in respect of 26/11.

6. The NCTC in the US has no powers of arrest, interrogation, investigation and prosecution. The responsibility in these matters continues to be that of the FBI. In India, if media reports are to be believed, the NCTC has been given the powers to arrest and carry out searches under Section 43 (A) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

7.Till now, in India, these powers belong to only the National Investigation Agency (NIC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at the Centre and the Police in the States. By giving these powers to the NCTC too, we are going to create confusion in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases.

8. Moreover, the IB does not have such powers. It is a clandestine organisation for the secret collection of intelligence. In all genuinely democratic countries, intelligence agencies are not given powers of arrest, searches and interrogation due to fears that such powers may be misused under pressure from the political leadership against political opponents. Only in authoritarian countries do intelligence agencies have powers of arrest and searches.

9. In India, the IB informally associates itself with all terrorism-related interrogation, but the arrests and searches are made either by the Police or by the NIA or the CBI. By creating a multiplicity of organisations having such powers and by giving these powers to the NCTC which will work under the DIB, we will be taking an unwise step which could further politicise our handling of counter-terrorism. (17-2-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )