01 April 2012

India's Tibet Travails

For several years now, Tibetans activists have tried to elicit global support for their campaign against China's cultural genocide. They accuse Beijing of killing hundreds of peacefully protesting Buddhist monks in Tibet and systematically destroying symbols of Tibetan culture. One of the more non-violent ways that Beijing has used to suppress the Tibetans is to promote the migration of the Han community (China's biggest ethnic group), who have grabbed economic opportunities at the expense of the native Tibetans. To draw the world's attention to their plight, since January 2011, 29 Tibetans have burnt themselves to death in India. 

Tibet, before its occupation by China in 1959, was a Buddhist theocracy. China's occupation saw the killing of thousands of Buddhist monks by Beijing’s military. In the years after the escape of the Dalai Lama, the besieged nation’s top spiritual leader, on horseback to India in 1959, almost all symbols of the ancient heritage of Tibet have been systematically erased. 

Today there is a Tibetan government-in-exile with its headquarters in McLeodganj in Himachal Pradesh. Thousands of Tibetans—both first generation refugees and their descendants—have made India their home. Over the years, India has extended moral and diplomatic support to the Tibetans. 

All that is changing and how. 

For fear of antagonising China, the Government of India (GoI) has often asked its ministers (& top bureaucrats) to avoid meeting the Dalai Lama or other Tibetan representatives. In fact, the GoI said that, “We will continue to extend the Dalai Lama all hospitality, but during his stay in India, he should not do any political activity that could adversely affect relations between India and China”. In short, India ‘advised’ the Dalai Lama not to conduct any political activities from India. 

I believe that this policy of publicly distancing herself from the Tibetans is a deliberate move by the Government of India. The reasons for this significant shift are not far to seek: 
(a) Trade. Burgeoning trade between the two nations – as of now, China is one of India’s top two trade partners;
(b) Reciprocity. Kashmir is India’s bugbear just as Tibet is China’s.
(c) 1962 defeat. Rarely acknowledged but nevertheless our humiliating defeat continues to shape our almost condescending attitude towards China. 

However, what worries me more is that if this could happen when the Dalai Lama is around, imagine what would happen after his death. As of now, the Tibetan community (including in Tibet) does not boast of even a single individual with the charisma, and more importantly, spiritual hold, to replace the Dalai Lama. So is the Tibetan movement doomed? Let me not sit in judgement here. 

I hate to sound pessimistic, but maybe the Indian government is simply waiting for the Dalai Lama to pass away. At least then, we would not have to put up the charade of standing up for the freedom-loving, oppressed, and repressed Tibetans.


Anonymous said...

Seems similar to the kashmir issue! and india as always will not be able to do anything against china and forever play by there rules!

Abhinav Manas Patnala said...

We don't expect China to meddle into the matters of Kashmir, the same way they don't expect us to meddle into the affairs of Tibet. See we can do our part by providing shelter to Dalai Lama but interfering into the political matters in the function of UN. If we were like Uncle Sam may be we could have done something. But, in reality the military might of India when compared to China is nothing ( check this: http://www.globalfirepower.com/countries-comparison-detail.asp). It is a fact that Tibetans are oppressed but can we really do something and then face the reaction? No. What all we can do at this point is PRAY. And in the case of Kashmir occupation...Nobody wants to be Prashant Bhushan. Do we?