Yesterday I read Aamir Khan’s blog post, justifying why he is carrying the Olympic torch although he has received requests from many people not to do so. Aamir Khan is a prominent film personality and the brand ambassador for Coke in India. He is one of the celebrities invited by Indian Olympic Committee to carry the torch. The captain of India’s football team was also invited, but he declined as a mark of solidarity for the Tibetan cause.
Aamir Khan says that he has the highest regard for the struggle of the people of Tibet. He is running with the torch because he feels that Olympics games do not belong to China. “The Olympic Games represent for me the coming together of different people across the world despite their differences and difficulties.”
What I found most striking, is his grim observations about the state of human rights in the world, be it Kashmir, Palestine or Iraq. He says “ 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, if any at all.”
It got me thinking. Is it fair to compare the rest of the developed world with China, which is not a free country by any standard? The media does not have the independence to report facts. People of China have no way of knowing the full truth nor do they have the freedom to voice dissent. Even US is guilty of several human right violations. But the fact that a documentary like “No end in sight” can be made and played to audience all over the world goes to show the amount of openness there is to discuss the wrongs of the government?
I recalled my first visit to the US in 1999. A war had broken out between India and Pakistan while I was there. Not a single US channel carried the story. I was so shocked, I asked people why this was so. They told me US media was very internally focused because of which most Americans think that there is no world outside US. I don’t know how far this generalization is true. However, when I visited the country after 9/11, I observed a marked change in the news coverage. There was so much more news about the world in general. It was almost as if there was sudden realization that we are not immune from the rest of the world. We are vulnerable.
Today, however, I wonder if a free press really matters. Does people’s opinion really count to a superpower, even if it is a democracy? We have an unjust war in Iraq, poorly managed and so many lives lost and unspeakable human right violation committed. The majority of the country seems to be against it and the whole world is opposed to it. Yet what is the world doing. We have imposed sanctions on countries like the Zimbabwe and Iraq. Can any country in the world even consider doing it to the US or China.
How can the world influence countries like US and China whom no country can threaten with economic sanctions or military might. Even if every country in the world boycotts the Olympics, it not going to matter to China. They hold what really matters – the purse strings and the bombs. Even if US invades Iran and North Korea, there is nothing the world can do about. It has just led me to the sad conclusion that might is right, after all.
Update 9th April: B Raman has written an open letter to Aamir Khan in response to his blog post. It gives a whole new perspective to the human rights issue that Aamir has pointed to. Definitely worth reading. Thank you Senthil for pointing to the link.