Dolkun Isa just got back from the United States after receiving the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. He did not face any trouble in the US on account of an Interpol red-corner notice issued against him on China's request in 1997. But India chose to revoke a visa issued to him, citing the Interpol notice. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Isa says although he has not lost hope about visiting India, he is disappointed that the largest democracy in the world could not stand up to China.
Excerpts from the interview:
You were issued an Indian visa and then you got a message saying it was revoked?
After I got the invitation for the conference [organised by the US-based Initiatives to be held in Dharamshala] a couple of months ago, I applied for a visa. I checked the internet and sent my application in and I got the visa immediately. It normally takes 72 hours, says the internet. But I got it in 20 hours. Later, when China came to know that I was going to India, it tried to stop me. It became an issue in the media and then, on April 23, I was shocked to get a short email saying my visa was cancelled.
Do you believe that India backed down under Chinese pressure?
I think India cancelled my visa because of Chinese pressure. My name is on the Interpol list since 1997. Most democratic countries ignore it because China abuses the list. Pakistan, China, Russia and Venezuela use Interpol against opposition leaders. Pakistan even put Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, on it. Of course, some countries close to China look at my name on the Interpol list. That is why I never travel to those countries. But India is completely different. It is a democratic country. It is some mistake, I believe.
Do you think India has a clear stand on the issue?
I am very disappointed with the Indian position. There are countries where I cannot go, like Pakistan or Kyrgyzstan. They have close ties with China. These countries are not really democratic countries. But India is a democratic country. There is freedom of expression and freedom of movement and basic human rights are guaranteed under the Constitution. I never thought that I would have any problem coming to India.
India should take a stand. It is the largest democracy in the world and it should take some responsibility in teaching China democracy. India has supported the Tibetan case and our case is similar.
Pakistan has an understanding with China to clamp down on Uighur activists.
Pakistan does everything that China wishes. In 1997, it deported 13 Uighurs to China. Most of them got death sentences. You can say Pakistan is an independent country. But it depends on the Chinese economy. I regularly attend human rights meetings in Geneva. If China blocks anything, Pakistan immediately supports China.
How do you feel about comparisons with Masood Azhar?
I didn’t know about the Masood issue. I am very upset being compared to him. Mine is a very different situation. My struggle is a non-violent struggle for human rights for the Uighur people. To compare me with a terrorist is not fair.