My old-man friend refuses to believe that the “Inji” soldiers could inflict such violence on Iraqi prisoners, simply because as a refugee he has been sponsored all his life by an Inji, and he knows hundreds of other Tibetans, old people, monks, and babies living in the kindness of foreign aid. Recently, Dharamsala saw posters splashed across the streets with images of a Chinese soldier dragging a Tibet freedom fighter juxtaposed with pictures of US and UK soldiers torturing a naked Iraqi prisoner laid out on the same page, the title read in Tibetan, “Torture has no different face”.
Thanks to all the kind-hearted Injis, the image of the American and the British soldiers in the eyes of the Tibetans tarnished, but only a little. There were Tibetans who said that they would rather live a life in the US prison than continue the “drag” life in India. The recent images of helpless Iraqi prisoners being tortured in the most humiliating manner by the “civilized and modern” forces led by United States of America and United Kingdom has got the Tibetans rethinking. The images naturally invoked empathy as common victims of foreign military invasion as that of the Iraqis. When China first invaded Tibet, they came in as friends, showing camaraderie to win over the natives. I know many old palas and amalas who in their teens worked with Chinese cadres, buildings roads and bridges. China looked at Tibet as a treasure house inhabited by the “barbaric and dirty people whose mind is poisoned by its religion.” It was true that aristocrats and local fiefs ran Tibet and there was slavery. There were no schools in the modern sense of four-walled classroom, 40-odd students and a boring teacher. There were no metal roads or cement bridges. Like any community there were social and political problems in Tibet. But, who are they to come to our country and dictate terms to us? We could have sorted out the problems ourselves.
China came to Tibet with the mission, to “liberate” Tibet from the “old and barbaric mind and poverty” and also to liberate its people from the “imperialist foreigners”. Our direction of development was focussed inwards. In the same way our culture aims to understand the mind or the inner being or the universe within. By the help of Tibetans’ studies, practices and scholarships a religion like Buddhism, which was born in India, attained greater heights as a philosophy and way of life.
The Communist China’s ambition to uproot the “old and traditional mind” sent tremors of destruction all across China. Today, China is bereft of its spirituality. The Chinese have killed it for themselves and have caused irreparable damage to other communities that they have occupied and imposed their communism like the Islamic Turks (in what is now called “Xinjiang”), Mongolians, Manchus and the Tibetans. But the strength of our spirituality is such that it has survived all the wanton destruction. It is there at a place where no physical force can reach — it is there in everyone’s heart like a butter lamp.
Today’s China blames the “Gang of Four” for all the destruction caused on the cultural houses across China during the Cultural Revolution. However, the present corrupt Chinese leadership lives on the pumped-up nationalism and the indoctrination China injected during those years of 1960s. I have met some Chinese students learning Buddhism from Tibetan lamas; they say, “because our Buddhist cultural roots were snapped, with the new materialistic life-style devoid of any cultural roots, I feel in exile in China.” Today, the Chinese government is morally degenerated. The 400-odd capitalist-minded politburo members now run the country in the name of communism, without any labour rights or the right to expression of the common people. China is weak under its apparent monolithic economic and military power. Today it is a country surviving on shaky grounds of silenced people’s agony. And this makes me unable to understand why the world’s highest moral authority, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is willing to make Tibet a party to this corrupt communist regime, a regime that has lost the confidence of its own people.
The recent 37-page white paper released by China called “Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet” yet again retorted that His Holiness should give up the demand for independence of Tibet. Even after 25 years of effort by the exiled Tibetan community for a “genuine autonomy” for the Tibetans; within the mainframe of People’s Republic of China and without asking to separate Tibet from the Mainland China. Such demands have repeatedly come up.
With this, the Tibetan hope for a Hong Kong kind of autonomy has been thrashed. I have always spoken for Independence of Tibet and of nothing less than that. Here we do not need to beg, we work for it and earn it for ourselves with dignity what we have lost. And with the power of truth it is possible, and we can do this. One of the things that I greatly appreciate about His Holiness is his vision of Tibet, for the future. The idea of Tibet being a self-reliant and self-sufficient country and the fact that it be made a zone of peace. With this I am hopeful that the dignity of the people can be restored, and its culture would be preserved and promoted. It’s a different question altogether that even after proving Tibet as an independent country in the language of the nation state — the International Commission of Jurist, declaring so, at the time of Chinese occupation — no state government today supports this stand. And this is so frustrating a fact that we have to live with. Still there is patience that the truth will triumph. The truth remains that Tibet was an independent country until the Chinese occupation in 1949. Today, China may have silenced all the heads of the government with her lure of money and power, over the heads of the billion Chinese who look for a free and democratic China. But the honeymoon will not last beyond the conjugal heat. The truth is with the people. People of the world support us. Our leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama is loved more than the Chinese leaders whether it is Hu or Wen.
It is this strength that gives me the conviction that even after the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan struggle will live on, and perhaps would gain more urgency, unlike some pessimists who say that the Tibetan issue will die with the present Dalai Lama. Often, I have been asked the meaning of the word Semshook, the title of my one-page column. At personal levels, I have offered my explanation. Semshook is the courage and determination it takes for the truth to prevail. The willingness to make any sacrifice the truth demands, and finally the act of achieving it. Such a Semshook we must all inculcate lest the gold remain in dust for a very, very long time.
How and when would the truth prevail depends on us. Nobody will champion our cause, whether it be the US or India. We have to work and make it happen on our own.