Bengaluru: After 60 years of being under military rule, Myanmar is finally breathing the sweet air of democracy. Helping her people recuperate and transition as best as it can is the Forum of Federations, a Canada based international organisation that Dr. Sandeep Shastri, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Jain University in the city, is a part of.
'“My experience has been enriching. Seeing this painful yet beautiful transformation is absolutely inspiring,” says Dr. Shastri whose team held about 80 workshops in Myanmar over the last five years to help its people move towards a fully functional democracy. Dr. Shastri recalls when the Union Solidarity and Development Party, a military backed political group, was in power, people were stopped from even using the word democracy. So bad were things that it was referred to as the D-word, he says. “They preferred to call it decentralisation of power. Though some of those who attended our workshops understood that speech was restricted, most didn’t. It was only after 2014 when the then President Thein Sein openly talked about democracy that we went down that road as well,” he reveals.
As for Aung San Suki’s National League for Democracy,which is in power now, he says it is walking the tightrope as 25 per cent of the nominated section of parliament is from the military and its support is crucial, “Personally I think she is trying to silently bring all the groups together and continuing the peace dialogue.” While he feels that Myanmar is not fully there yet, he believes there are lessons to learn from the country. “It is accepting defeat and doing it gracefully. When the ruling party lost to Suki’s in 2015, I saw it respect the people’s decision. Conceding isn’t seen as a loss of face. No blame games are played. It is the concept of ‘we’ and ‘they’ at the grassroot level, a unity which is scarcely visible in our society today.”