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    Posted on 04 April 2012
    CULTURE & SOCIETY  

    How a young girl’s love for a foreigner upset a nation

    Aung San Suu Kyi: A Biography
    by Jesper Bengtsson, Amaryllis,
    260 pp | Rs 495


    SWEDISH JOURNALIST Jesper Bengtsson followed developments in Myanmar for a decade before writing this biography of Suu Kyi, whose party National League for Democracy swept the bypolls over the weekend. He interviewed her in February 2011, over a year after she was released from house arrest.

    For the media, a goodlooking, charismatic leader carrying on the political legacy of the family is always a magnetic subject. In India, of course, the fact that she studied in a Delhi college makes her very real to the elite of the capital city. But personal suffering – and she did suffer in an inhuman manner – cannot alone be the yardstick by which a politician can be judged. A politician must be good for the country, bring hope of a better future and also be in a position to deliver that dream. If not, society throws up others.

    Here we come to terms with some harsh realities. Suu Kyi’s father Aung San, who had left-wing views and had what the author called ‘eccentric personal characteristics’ was part of the struggle for independence from the British. When an interim government was formed, he was made vice chair of the council, in charge of defence and foreign affairs. With this anointment, it became clear ‘that older nationalists like U Saw and U Ba Maw had lost their influence over the process of independence.’

    Now we come to the figure Indians are familiar with: Lord Louis Mountbatten. It was he who chose Aung San, just as he chose Jawaharlal Nehru in India. In January 1947, Aung San headed a delegation to meet then prime minister Clement Attlee and hammer out the final details of Burmese independence. The compromise worked out moved the old nationalists to accuse Aung San ‘of having sold himself to the imperialists in return for personal power’. On his return, he plunged into sorting out ethnic strife and at 32 years of age would have become independent Myanmar’s first democratically elected prime minister had there not been a coup by a group of soldiers who pumped 13 bullets into his body and executed another six ministers, including his brother U Ba Win.

    The junta, gripped by xenophobia, threw out all Western organisations

    Now the bloody political legacy fell to the lot of the daughter, a scene we are also familiar with in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Suu Kyi was 15 when her family moved west. The junta, gripped by xenophobia, threw out all the Western organisations active in the country, particularly Christain missionaries. Meanwhile, Suu Kyi met Michael Aris in London.

    IT IS believed he fell precipitately in love with her, and she grew into it gradually. It is this relationship, that ended in marriage, that seems to have alienated her from her countrymen. The junta would have been happy if she had stayed out of the country with her husband and two sons. But she had political aspirations. And that is why, when she returned, she was put under house arrest.

    Should the young girl have put love for the country over that for a mere man? This book gives the reader a fair chance to decide.

    The views are the writer's own.

    Majula Lal is Deputy Editor, Financial World
    manjula.lal@gmail.com


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    Posted on 04 April 2012
 

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