Should LSR Rethink Its ‘Vow of Silence’ on Aung San Suu Kyi?

Aung San Suu Kyi is an ex-LSR student. Like Oxford University, should LSR too make a statement?

Updated06 Oct 2017, 06:46 AM IST
India
5 min read

On 29 September, an Oxford University college removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s portrait from display and put it in storage. She was later stripped of the ‘Freedom of the City of Oxford’ award.

Suu Kyi has been widely criticised for not speaking out against the ethnic cleansing of a Muslim minority group in Myanmar – the Rohingyas.

Several of Suu Kyi’s fellow Peace Prize laureates, including Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, have urged her to condemn the violence. Instead, she has described the Rohingya insurgents as “terrorists”, and dismissed the worldwide condemnation, saying that international outlets have created “a huge iceberg of misinformation.”

According to a report in the Guardian, Bristol University, and The London School of Economics student unions are reconsidering the honours they bestowed on Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi also has a special connection with India – she studied in Lady Shri Ram College, a premier institution of the country.

When an ex-LSR Student was under House Arrest

In May 1989, when Suu Kyi was rising to power in Myanmar, the junta put her under house arrest. She remained a political prisoner for the next two decades. In 2010, when she was finally released, she had become a champion for human rights.

Back home in India, especially in LSR, her idealism was cherished. Her story of grit and resolve was taught alongside the University-designed curriculum. In the period of two decades, LSR remained a loyal friend and supporter.

In 2005, the then Principal of LSR, Dr Meenakshi Gopinath introduced a course in peace building. It was decided that the course would be named after its most distinguished alumna, Aung San Suu Kyi.

After Suu Kyi’s release, the ‘Aung San Suu Kyi Centre’ was formally inaugurated in 2013.

Why So Silent, LSR?

Suu Kyi’s alma mater has not shied away from conferring honours upon her. Why then, is it supporting Suu Kyi’s indifference towards the Rohingyas with a vow of silence? We spoke to current and former students of LSR on what the institution should do amidst this crisis.

LSR taught me to think. It gave me the confidence to be the best version of myself. It transformed me into an individual, who was able to think independently of the socio-political constructs. When the institution imparted so much to me, then why is it failing to call out the humanitarian crisis, which is being ushered by one of its own?
an ex-LSR student
(Photo Courtesy:<a href="http://lsr.edu.in/ASSK-Centre-for-Peace.asp"> Lady Shri Ram College</a>)
(Photo Courtesy: Lady Shri Ram College)
After two decades of house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi visited Lady Shri Ram College in 2012.

Lady Shri Ram College has been one of the top colleges for women in the country. It has ensured that its women are politically aware, but has maintained a politically neutral stance itself. However, at this time of a humanitarian exigency, is it wise for an institution to remain apolitical?

LSR should NOT remain silent as they will be sending the wrong message to future generations. A positive and constructive stance should be taken from a humanitarian standpoint, and not from the perception of just targeting Suu Kyi. A positive pressure should be placed.
Devika Kamboh, an ex-LSR student

Targeting may not necessarily be physical; metaphorical steps, like that of the Oxford University, too have a strong message to give.

It is absolutely right on Oxford’s part to take down Suu Kyi’s portrait. Being a Nobel Peace Prize winner, it is shameful that Suu Kyi has decided to adopt a silent stance on something so terrible going on within her own country. It is only now that Myanmar has chosen to offer repatriation to the Rohingyas, which is a shoddy apology and a token offering. As an institution that has built a peace centre after her, the prettiest and swankiest building on campus, LSR should at least comment on Suu Kyi’s role in this humanitarian crisis. 
An LSR student

Is LSR afraid of media scrutiny if it issues a statement?

Maybe to some extent, LSR is afraid of having its name flashed in newspapers, magazines and the Internet in relation to Suu Kyi and the turmoil in Myanmar. We have always been an apolitical institution, and the college has always maintained the policy of staying far away from political chaos. Every year during orientation, the incoming students are proudly told that Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Myanmar’s first female leader, is an LSR alumnus. It is a little disheartening to see that the same college that encourages us to speak up against any injustice that we experience – whether it is discrimination or fighting for the rights of minority interests, the recent Ramjas issue, or even the mistreatment of stray animals – chooses not to speak up against grave injustice that is being condoned by one of its own. However, I do appreciate the fact that the students are given absolute freedom to express their feelings in any manner they want to, and even though the administration may not have issued a statement, the students have formed opinions and views on this issue. My only hope, that next year, the orientation speech leaves out the paragraph that presents Suu Kyi as our prized trophy. 
An LSR student

“Having a peace centre named after her in this day and age, is really a very unfortunate and ironic oxymoron.”

Suu Kyi has been categorically publicised as an alumna in most college publications and programmes. While we have all been in awe of what she did and stood for, but it is important to dissociate oneself from what her present day politics are. Having a peace centre named after her in this day and age, is really a very unfortunate and ironic oxymoron. This should also call for some introspection how we hero worship and are expected to have a blind admiration for alumni. 
Bedatri D Choudhury, an ex-LSR student

No institution is perfect, chimes another ex-LSR student,

No institution is perfect and much has to do with current leadership and the LSR Board. These people should be brought to public attention and social pressure must be placed on these leaders. If it fails to do so, then future students will stop associating with LSR, its invisible glass ceilings and bigotry.
Devika Kamboh, an ex-LSR student

We reached out to the Principal of LSR, however, we haven’t received any comment from her office yet.

When Aung San Suu Kyi was in LSR, she was just like any other student – fiercely independent, opinionated and confident. If the young ELSA Suu Kyi were to meet the Leader Suu Kyi today, would her younger self ask her the question, “why so silent”?

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Published: 05 Oct 2017, 12:49 PM IST

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