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Full Text of Aung San Suu Kyi's Lecture at Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial

Full Text of Aung San Suu Kyi's Lecture at Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial

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Published by: Firstpost on Nov 15, 2012
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12/04/2012

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Here is the full text of Aung San Suu Kyi's lecture at JawaharlalNehru Memorial:
There can be few occasions in life more fulfilling than those on whichdebts of kindness and friendship can be repaid. These past few monthshave furnished me with many opportunities to thank peoples andorganizations and governments for their staunch support for thedemocratic cause in Burma and for me personally. The sympathy andunderstanding we received from around the world enabled us to continuewith renewed vigour along our chosen course in the face of immensedifficulties. Words of thanks alone are barely an adequate return forencouragement and help given in generous measure when we were mostin need.Today, I wish to thank you for the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Prize thatwas awarded to me in 1995, the year that I was released from my firstterm of house arrest. The links between the independence movements ofour two countries and my personal ties to India imbued the prize with aspecial meaning for me. The thoughts and actions of the leaders of theIndian independence movement provided me with ideas and inspiration.Our movement for democracy in Burma is firmly rooted in the principle ofnon-violence that Gandhi made into an effective political force evenagainst the most powerful opponents. His influence on my political thinkingis widely recognized. The influence of Jawaharlal Nehru on my life inpolitics is less well known.“Panditji” was a name known to me since I was little past the toddlerstage. My mother spoke of him as a revered friend, almost a father figure,both to her and to my father. I had little idea of his importance as astatesman beyond the fact that he was the Prime Minister of India. To myinfant mind he was the kindly old man who had provided my father withtwo sets of uniform, the smartest he ever possessed. In January 1947 myfather had stopped in Delhi for two days on his way to London for theAung San-Attlee talks that were to be the first phase of formal negotiationsfor Burmese independence. He had left Burma in the thin cotton uniform ofthe People’s Volunteer Organization. Panditji took one look at the flimsykhaki outfit and decided it would not do for the icy weather of London.(That was one of the coldest winters in the history of England.) He gaveinstructions that two sets of a warm and smart version of the PVO uniformbe made immediately. He decided that my father would also need a heavyovercoat but since there was not enough time to have one made tomeasure, a British Army issue greatcoat was procured. The most widelyknown photograph of my father shows him wearing this garment in thegarden of 10 Downing Street.
 
My father was still a university student when he first met Jawaharlal Nehruand other Indian leaders. The student unions were at the forefront of theindependence movement in Burma and shared aspirations led to ties offriendship between anti-colonial forces in our two countries. However, asthe Second World War approached, the paths to freedom chosen by theBurmese diverged from the non-violent way of Gandhi. My father led agroup of young men, the ‘Thirty Comrades,’ to Japan for military trainingand this small pioneer force became the core of the Burma IndependenceArmy.During the years under Japanese occupation, 1941 to 1945, Burmeseindependence leaders had little contact with the leaders in India but cameto know Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army. At theend of the war, when Netaji’s brother Sarat Chandra Bose came to Burmato offer his services as a defence lawyer in the trials of members of theINA, my father delivered an address of welcome at a reception held in theCity Hall of Rangoon. He referred to Sarat Chandra Bose as “one of theleaders of India. . . a great brother of a great Indian.” He went on to say:. . . as far as the AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League) of whichI am the President . . . is concerned, our policy towards India and Indiansin this country is one of the broadest conception and generosity . . . Wehave no axe to grind, we nurture no feelings of racial bitterness and ill will.We stand for friendly relations with any and every nation in the world.Above all . . . we stand for more than friendly relations with ourneighbours. We want to be not merely good neighbours, but goodbrothers . . . We stand for an Asiatic Federation in a not very, very remotefuture, we stand for immediate mutual understanding and joint action,wherever and whenever possible . . . for our mutual interests and for thefreedom of India, Burma and indeed all Asia. We stand for these, and wetrust Indian national leaders . . . implicitly. A few months ago. . . PanditJawaharlal Nehru stopped for one night in Rangoon on his way back toIndia from Malaya. At that time, I met him and we discussed thesequestions for about two hours.The next and last time my father and Nehru met was in those few days inDelhi that acquired unexpected sartorial significance.After my father’s death, Nehru continued to keep an avuncular eye on mymother from afar. Whenever she went to India or whenever he came onofficial visits to Burma, he made her feel his concern for her well-beingand the well-being of her children. I may even have been taken along tomeet him during one of his visits but I can only remember seeing him forthe first time at Delhi Railway Station when I was about sixteen.My mother was then ambassador to India and she and I and a small groupfrom the Embassy and the Ministry of External Affairs were waiting towelcome Prime Minister U Nu who was travelling up by train from
 
Calcutta. Nehru also came to meet U Nu and onlookers spotted him assoon as he stepped into the area that was cordoned off from the teemingcrowds in the station. Cheers went up and shouts of “Pandit Nehru ki jai”resounded. His lower lip protruding in that famous petulant look, Nehruignored all the plaudits and all the people (including me) and walked upand down the empty platform with my mother and talked to herexclusively. His aristocratic disdain for public approbation filled me withboth astonishment and admiration. I wondered if Nehru’s public liked hiscool arrogance or whether there was a bond between them that madeexchanges of mutual courtesies unnecessary. Then I remembered that myfather had been notorious for his stern, almost scowling expression andfor his lack of social graces. Our people loved him for these very defects,which they saw as proof of his honest, open nature. I should add thattowards the end of his life my father acknowledged that as a nationalleader, he could not continue with the rough diamond manners of a youngrevolutionary.The year I went to Oxford, 1964, was one of the most significant turningpoints in my life. It was also the year Nehru died. Next to theoverwhelming grief of the people not just in India but in all parts of theworld, I remember most vividly reports of the poem by Robert Frost foundon his desk. Oxford did not take me away from India for I made manyIndian friends there. After my marriage, my husband’s work in Himalayanstudies took our family frequently to the north of the country. My lastsojourn in India was spent as a research fellow in the Indian Institute ofAdvanced Studies in Shimla from 1987 to 1988.The year of Nehru’s birth centenary, 1989, was the year I was placedunder house arrest for the first time. It could be said to have been the yearof my political coming of age. When I joined the movement for democracyin 1988 the whole country was in a state of upheaval and my majorconcern was to try to unite the myriad political groups that had emergedfrom the cracks in totalitarian rule into a strong, coherent force fordemocracy. Each day was more than eventful: discussions, debates,public meetings, founding the National League for Democracy, touring thecountry to explain the aims of our party to the people.The State Law and Order Restoration Council had announced thatelections would be held in 1990 and the election laws were made public inApril 1989. The Central Committee of the NLD was divided over whetheror not the party should contest the elections. I pointed out that the lawsmade no provision for the transfer of power and that I did not believe themilitary regime would step down unless the winner turned out to be theerstwhile Burma Socialist Programme Party. We were still undecided withregard to the election issue when I was placed under house arrest in July.The Chairman of the Township Law and Order Restoration Council, anarmy major, appeared at my gate with a warrant and a group of officers,

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