The greatest of world leaders are flawed; sometimes their towering personalities are tainted by such racial slurs that would put humanity in shame. A news report recently brought into light the well-hidden religious bigotry of none other but Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Daily Mail reported in 2013, that the much-loved leader from Myanmar showed herself in not so flattering light when she was cornered with uncomfortable questions at BBC Today by presenter Mishal Husain. Allegedly, Suu Kyi muttered off-air: “No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.” This is such a contradictory image a lady known to be fighting for Myanmar’s right.
Quite often, the narratives are so fractured, and the media hoopla so big that they become our touching stones for peace, prosperity and progress, and are revered like gods.
Our generation grew up, listening to the great tales of another great leader, the messiah of peace: Nelson Mandela. There were songs, articles, docu-dramas dedicated to the cause of the South African leader, who sacrificed 27 years of his life to be in jail for fighting against apartheid in his country.
One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Mandela, “the savior” of South Africa was not always in the good books of super-pretentious countries USA and the UK. He in fact was listed as a “terrorist” in the US till 2008, five years before the leader died in 2013. It comes as a shocker to many, Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Peace prize-winner, was treated by the West with suspicion and lambasted for his atrocities against many of his countrymen.
The charges are not totally false. Mandela did change his course of activism, and chose a non-violent way to get rid of apartheid after his release from prison in 1990. But his previous days are not dotted by the fluttering white doves of peace.
The South African leader served a good many years of his life behind the bars, not merely for opposing injustice and racism. Mandela, an august leader of the African National Congress (ANC), co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), aka MK, a militant group to put up a “violent fight” against violence.
Apparently, Mandela was chosen by the South African Communist Party (SACP) to create Umkhonto we Sizwe, and he acted as SACP’s tool to “hijack” the ANC and marginalizing its leader Albert Lithuli. Lithuli was against “liberation” through armed struggle. In the 1958 treason trial, Mandela denied being a member of the SACP, a denial that he maintained till the end.
No matter how paradoxical the idea might seem today, taking into consideration his huge stature as a propagator of peace, back then, Mandela had nodded to the execution of people who didn’t confirm to ANC’s viewpoint.
Mandela even suggested cutting off the noses of opposing blacks. We in India, are familiar with the Sikh Riot victims in Delhi, who were burned to death by placing a type around their waists. The rubber would burst into instant flames, and the victim would stagger in horror and pain, as the fire devoured him.
The torture method was invented by Mandela’s second wife Winnie, who nicknamed it with an equally sadistic name: necklacing. MK members murdered dozens of fellow blacks with this horrendous method.
Mandela had approved of 13 attacks during the 80s, many of which targeted government facilities, including a military command headquarters, an unfinished nuclear plant, a courthouse, among other things.
Among all these, the biggest was the Pretoria car-bombing in the South African Air Force that killed 19 people. At his trial, he pleaded guilty to 156 acts of public violence, including mobilising his members for bombing campaigns, which planted bombs in public places, including the Johannesburg railway station.
It’s difficult to pin down Mandela as one person. He was at various times a black nationalist and a non-racialist, an advocate of violence and a challenger of armed struggle, a frenzied revolutionary and the peace-loving emissary, a pro-Marxist and a supporter of Western democracy, a close buddy of Communists and, in his regime, a close aide of South Africa’s powerful capitalists.