Who sheds tears for Tibet?

By Kuldip Nayar 
Kuldip Nayar, Indian journalist
One more monk burns himself at Lhasa. People have lost the count. Yet such fiery protests take place throughout Tibet, almost every other day. This is the way the monks are registering their defiance to Chinese communist culture. Yet Beijing is relentless in imposing its way of life on them, seen clinging to their Buddhist heritage fiercely. Self-immolation is considered the highest type of sacrifice in Buddhism, although their religious leader, the Dalai Lama, has advised them strongly against such a practice. He has said in a press interview that he understands their pain and feels guilty in criticising them. But if he doesn’t, he apprehends, there would be innumerable monks taking their lives.

Against this backdrop, the world conscience remains dead. A few who protest in the West are silenced by their governments forcibly. The almighty Yuan has suppressed the expression of truth beneath the mercantile considerations. The emerging China is too powerful and too rich to be boycotted for the intangible value of religious freedom and human rights. The preachy West has told the Dalai Lama explicitly not to visit them because it realises which side of the bread is buttered.
The government in India is too scared to support the Tibetans’ cause. Even when its request to reopen its mission was rudely rejected, New Delhi did not even voice its protest. The Dalai Lama has said many a time that India “can do more” for his people but it prefers to keep its distance from them because of Beijing’s sensitivity. Yet the Tibetans have not given up the fight.
Camp Hale at Colorado in the US was a long way from Tibet. What joined the two was the training of some 2000 Tibetan warriors in the guerrilla warfare to fight the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. The warriors failed to make any headway. Yet they have kept the powerful army on its pins all the time. Unfortunately, Beijing sees the hand of New Delhi behind Tibet’s independence struggle. China is more convinced about this after Foreign Minister SM Krishna told it the other day that Tibet was like Kashmir, “our core problem.”
The Tibetans, however, continue to harbour the grievance against India for having accepted China’s suzerainty over Tibet after the British left India in 1947. Their complaint is that New Delhi never consulted them. The Dalai Lama, who took refuge in India in 1954 when he could not see the Communist shoes trampling upon the spiritual and traditional ways of his people, too believes that since New Delhi had no locus standi in Tibet, it had no right to accept China’s suzerainty without consulting his people.
Suzerainty does not mean independence. It is government’s political control over a dependent state. What New Delhi transferred to China is over lordship, not sovereignty. Yet it is apparent that for the sake of India’s good relations with China, the Dalai Lama who became 77 this week, has to face hard living conditions. Along with his people, he has been sent to stay rooted at Dharamshala, a small hill station in Himachal Pradesh.
And the Tibetans have been warned many a time against having any contact with the outside world without New Delhi’s prior permission. Even local people have been told not to interact with them. The Dalai Lama too has restrictions on his movement and even pronouncements. Even otherwise, he speaks rarely. In an interview, he said, “meaningful autonomy is the only realistic solution.” He made the same offer some time ago, but Beijing rejected it. This time too he doesn’t expect China to change.
The Dalai Lama has noted that even during the 1962 war of India against China, Jawaharlal Nehru did not utter a word about Tibet. Nor did he draw the world’s attention to the ethnic cleansing going on in Tibet at that time. On certain occasions, the Dalai Lama has felt “suffocated” and has raised protest over New Delhi’s attitude. No successor to Nehru, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been any different even when Beijing is hauling thousands of Chinese to Tibet to settle them there so as to change the ethnic complexion of Tibet.
A lonely Dalai Lama goes on pointing out that Beijing is sedulously destroying the centuries old culture of Buddhists in Tibet. On the other hand, the world has got attuned to the sufferings of Tibetans and does not even say anything about the daylight murder of the old culture and heritage. The purpose of Beijing is to squeeze out even the last bit of religious practices and rites which the Tibetans still defiantly follow.
Washington may be willing to appeal to the world conscience to help save the Tibetan culture. But how far it is willing to jeopardise the trade and economic ties with China is the question. After all, President Barack Obama kept the Dalai Lama waiting to placate Beijing. Even when he met him, Obama looked like going over an exercise. Strong Chinese economy gives more comfort to the US citizens than a few drops of tears that the irking conscience of some may shed.
When Beijing lays its claim on Arunachal Pradesh and when the visa for people of Jammu and Kashmir is given on a separate paper, although stapled to the passport, New Delhi gives in more than it imagines. It should introspect whether it was correct in accepting China’s suzerainty over Tibet when Beijing is not prepared to take into account the sensitivities of either Tibet or India.
Tibet today is like an occupied territory, without the people there having any say in governance. Lhasa is directly under Beijing’s control. Unfortunately, the Dalai Lama is thinking of retiring when he is needed the most. He should, in fact, go around the world and awaken its conscience to garner support against China’s brutalities. Beijing must let the Tibetans live the way they want to because that alone gives them their entity.

NOTE-- Kuldip Nayar is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human right activist and author, noted for his long career as a left-wing political commentator. He was also nominated as a Member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament in 1997.

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