Tibetan National Congress

Tenzin Phuntsok Pmnor

By Tenzin Phuntsok Pamnor

If one is fighting for middle path and other for complete independence, what the common people are fighting for. The loss of 30 plus something Tibetan people due to 48 self-immolations is not a joke. Their lives were sacrificed at the altar of Tibet. They are neither member of TYC nor TWA. It is high time for us to put all our efforts together without stretching it too wide under different banners—however merely saying ‘no’ to a new banner might not be the right decision!

Ever since, Tibetan Youth Congress was formed in 1970, in the blissful presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the then young leaders of Tibet in exile; Lodi Gyari, Tenzin N. Tethong, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche and host of bigwigs, there sprung large number of other organisations including Tibetan Women’s Association. 

Other major NGOs formed include, Gu Chu Sum, a political prisoners’ association, then later sprung up National Democratic Party of Tibet known as NDPT from the root of Tibetan Youth Congress for sheer political purpose of partaking in elections followed by Students for Free Tibet (SFT).

Both the TYC and TWA have a large number of chapters spreading across India and overseas where ever Tibetans are in large concentration. In the southern part of India, though majority of the regional organizations either belong to TYC or TWA, we have a distinct students’ organization called Tibetan Students’ Association of Madras known popularly as TSAM founded by then 10 young college students the most salient of being activist Tenzin Tsundue. This very association neither merges with TYC nor with TWA though it has affiliations with them.

Apart from all these organizations, we got the largest number of parochial associations or organizations on the basis of province and regions. If one is to visit Dharamsala, one can point your fingers to countless mini-organizations. Dharamsala, sometimes can be called as land of Tibetan NGO’s or associations. I was in fact prompted to pen this article under the title of “TIBTAN NATIONAL CONGRESS” ever since I attended the 6th National Conference of National Democratic Party of Tibet. I attended this conference in my capacity as its member from Chennai chapter.

We don’t have regional chapter like others of this party, however we have few students who joined this party. The conference looked quite pathetic with not much attendance as expected or boasted of its 4,000 strong members in the official party magazine. Most of the conference partakers are second generation people except for the then president Chemi Youngdrong la. Among the young attendees include myself, Gyaltsen from New Delhi, Gelek Jamyang, now NDPT president, from Chandigarh and one youth from Dharamsala apart from which all are beyond youth.

The biggest challenge NDPT is facing was its reducing members and fund. NDPT has huge challenge with its membership enlargement. They lost Bangalore recently. The biggest reason put up for that in the conference by few member attendees were too many associations or organizations that have already absorbed members under their fold. Tibetan Youth Congress being the largest youth members absorbed in it large chunk of people cutting across many boundaries followed by Tibetan Women’s Association and Students for Free Tibet (SFT). The biggest question that hunted me for the last two months owing to my profound observation not as a short term political activist, but as political science student, is why we have so many organizations that not only fragmented the human and financial resources but also sometimes created dividends among them despite fighting against and for the same cause. A good Indian friend of mine had this opinion when discussing about Tibet issue, “Why you have so many organizations, it really confuses us a lot”.

While Tibetan Women’s Association politically go along the lines of Exile Government’s approach of middle path, Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for Free Tibet (SFT) continue to keep the spirit of complete independence. Sometimes on the same day, four associations under four different banners initiate activity with no single objective or political ideology. If one is fighting for middle path and other for complete independence, what the common people are fighting for.
The confusing nature of Tibetan struggle keeps us very much apart while Chinese government laughs at how we fight for our own country with fragmented efforts. The loss of 30 plus something Tibetan people due to 48 self-immolations is not a joke. Their lives were sacrificed at the altar of Tibet. They are neither member of TYC nor TWA. The recent signature campaign initiative taken by the disgruntled Tibetan Parliament in Exile had many Tibetan Diasporas jibbing at it as fruitless effort for documentation. It neither talks about independence nor about middle path but says for the immediate concerns of self-immolations happening in Tibet.

 The signatures which will be running into hundred thousand showcasing the Indian and foreign support as one of the Tibetan MP says will be sent to the United Nations on December 10, 2012 on the occasion of Human Rights Day doesn’t make much sense to me even though I, in my capacity as President of Tibetan Students’ Association, Madras cooperated with them. In the meantime, there will be another 10 or 20 people self-immolating in Tibet. No one even the Chinese government or appeal from Exile government including His Holiness the Dalai Lama can stop them. Their commitment has crossed and overtaken the commitment made by us in exile. We did many indefinite hunger fast but ended them up in between without even single promise from Chinese authorities or United Nations. The indefinite hunger fast which I very much appreciate and support suddenly turned into definite fast concluding without attaining objectives.

The number of organizations with number of objectives places us far away from our chief objectives. If we put ourselves together, if we all our efforts together without stretching it too wide under different banners, then we will be nearer to our goal. Remember what happened during 2008 protest and March to Tibet.

There were huge differences, each organizations taking chunk of member protestors to different directions and leading nowhere. We have common enemy and it can only be fought with single integration. The need of the hour is not support from outsiders but from among us. We need to support each other more than outsiders. The outsiders, be it government or people can only sympathise with us but can never work or fight on our behalf. So many organizations are springing up with one or the other objectives or manifestos. It’s high time for us to work under one umbrella- complete absence of political confusion among our own people and supporters.

His Holiness is a different kind of person, for us he is god and for others he is researchable 21st century mystery.  A follower of Gandhi, but doesn’t embark completely on Gandhi’s lines of dos. Now His Holiness has quitted active politics, passing the responsibilities directly on us. We can’t effort to have two Dalai Lamas at the same time. One retires and other assuming. The only feasible leading we see after Dalai Lama is Former Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpochey who is also aging along with His Holiness. Therefore, the alternative must come from our concerted efforts which have been lacking in our 50 years long struggle.

It is very much true that some section of Tibetan Youth Congress was angry at how the Students for Free Tibet have taken away a large chunk of youths from TYC or their enrolment into SFT took away the knack of joining STF. TSAM’s constant refusal to merge with TYC has still its top brass mulling over how to win the hearts of TSAM students in Chennai. All these organizations have big problem as to how to mark certain important days including 10th March, 2nd December, 17th November, and many more. They are either not able to mark these historic days together under one banner or have differences of how to do it keeping in mind their organization’s name. All these have not only squandered our financial efforts but also human effort that went fragmented and sank into sort of mini-activities.

 Therefore, the need of an hour for us is to have a conglomerated, assimilated and concerted single organization that can whole with great finance and energy or strength. We hardly had a meeting of all the NGOs or organizations that tried to meet on this kind of effort. Now or never, it’s high time that we prove to the world that we have one aim, one organization, working for the sole objectives of retaining back our freedom. It is even my personal request to National Democratic Party of Tibet, NDPT, to which I am an executive member to bolster this idea. I will also be speaking to each of the president of the major NGOs and organizations to assure them of the utility, strength and consolidated effort of this ONENESS. If such ideas can be realised in the near future, I will personally in my best capacity pursue TSAM to join so called “TIBETAN NATIONAL CONGRESS”. I look forward to the making of “TIBETAN NATIONAL CONGRESS” as soon as possible and before it is too late.

NOTE: Tenzin Phuntsok Pamnor is a senior student majoring in Political Science at Madras Christian College, Chennai.

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  1. Cho Cho, nice article but be careful with your words when you pen such articles lo

  2. Agu you are 110% right. And now I think no organisation middle path or rangzen will want you because you speak the truth .....but I will support you cos I am confused too

  3. Good read, yes we don't need one more ngo we have enough! some are just for name sake and causes more problems. This is not the time to argue our stand, this is the time for us to stand unite and fight for our cause. Otherwise, our weakness will become the stregth for our enemy and we will always
    be busy arguing rangzen and middle way..

  4. Here is the thing. You are mostly right and I have been complaining about so many needless organizations that are just carbon copies of others with a different name attached to them. Most of the time, it is my firm belief, these organizations are created because it is much easier to get into position of power, job security, or both, without having to put in the time to climb through the ladder of the more established organizations. Devious and creative in a way but ultimately destructive in the long run as you have observed.

    I have to disagree slightly on one issue, which is the grouping of everyone under one banner. We basically should have only two organizations to represent the two schools of thoughts out there; namely Rangzen and Middleway, one espousing complete independence and the other willing to be Chinese if certain things are granted. These are two diametrically opposing views that cannot be reconciled. It is a wonder how they managed to stay side by side without bloodshed for so long. That doesn't mean they don't share the same concern regarding education, culture, language, livelihood of Tibetans in Tibet and in exile and their overall well being. So, the main thrust of the issue is the political goal of the movement and it has always been that every since Middleway was adopted as the official path. There is no getting around that fact.

    The Central Tibetan Administration is the mothership or flagship of the Middleway movement with Tibetan women's movement attached to it (you will understand why if you knew how TWA came about). Your criticism is actually about Rangzen organizations which doesn't have a similar flagship and it appears fragmented and ruled by personalities more so than by goals. If Rangzen organizations are serious about their goals, then it is high time for them to leave their cult of personality and egos behind them and join together
    and I mean it in the sincerest way possible, without any malice. Tibetan National Congress as far as I can gather, is a Rangzen organization with all the Pro Rangzen organizations represented in it and that is a good sign. It is high time for them to have a coordinated way to organize themselves and save the embarrassment of organizational conflicts and misunderstanding. If Tibetan National Congress is the flagship of the various rangzen organizations, it will prove to be a formidable challenge to the current no challenge state of affairs. Finally, Rangzen organizations will have a political front which will contest the elections (I heard there were many sitting MPs in the committee) and change the direction of the Tibetan movement. I don't think 51 tibetans self-immolated so that they can one day be Chinese. Somebody has to respect their voices and take action.

  5. Keep stirring the pot - interesting discussion.

  6. Tenzin Phuntsok PamnorAugust 9, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    Thank you so much Anonymous for keeping this debatable article alive. The more you comments, the more it adds to the betterment of ideas and writing style.

    Also, I am coming up with another article and hope we can make the best use of this platform.

  7. Very true Pamnor!

  8. I will try to put some light on how these organisations that u mentioned and few others are differ from each other but makes them one in their goal of serving Tibetan cause and people which is quite different from your thinking.

    Tibetan youth congress- Political Ideology- Rangzen, but also one of the key organisation working for Social welfare, be it in Settlements by regional chapters or one simple example of recent Kalachakara prayer social work. It had represent Tibet and still in many youth organisations in the world through different conference, meetings etc. China see TYC as major threat. The Rangzen torchbearer.
    Tibetan Women Organisation- You have just mention about TWA as middle way approach which is true but there are many other things which TWA do: Social welfare, welfare of under privilege Tibetan women in exile, also Nuns. they have a environment desk. most important thing it represent Tibetan women inside Tibet and highlight the women condition. As a women organisation it also represent Tibet through different platform of Women in the world.

    Gu Chu Sum- as you mention its a Ex political prisoner association which has around 500 members in exile. Political ideology- Rangzen
    it has around regular 20 staff to take care to political prisoners situation and their welfare in exile. one school and a hostel for ex political prisoner, museum, tailoring shop which employed around 15 to 20 family of Political prisoners. Telling common people and media about reality of Tibet through Ex political prisoner experience and through Political theater. Recently group of Gu chu Sum Ex political prisoners went to US in a political prisoners conference and high light Tibet issue.
    Students For a Free Tibet- founded by Non Tibetan and Tibetans in 1994 as Tibet support group, ideology- Rangzen. It has both Tibetan and non tibetan working together which is the main difference from other Tibet NGO's mainly focus in University, school and cities. have more knowledge of modern Technology, social networking, Internet, International communities, Organise number training on tech, mobile, internet security. Organised many of protest in TIbet and China during 2008 olympic by more then Hundred activists. Tibetans who are born and brought up in west finds it a best platform to work for Tibet. and also actively engage Tibetan youth in political activities.

    NDPT- Founded as a political party. work towards awareness of Democracy in tibetan community.

  9. Continue....

    some of Community based NGO's in Dharamsala, ROGPA, REWA, Volunteer for Tibet, Tibet Charity, LHA, LIT etc.

    There are thousands tourist who come to Dharamsala every year to see TIbetan exile communities. These community base NGO, organised every week talk on Tibet, langauge Classes, conversation classes, social interaction, internship, different social welfare activities, cultural program which provide lot of opportunities to the foreigners to learn and work for Tibet while their stay in Dharamsala. this are not easy task.

    So i see every NGO in Dharamsala are doing their best for Tibet in a Different way. The organizational difference are not purposely made to divide community but formed naturally due to difference in nature of work and as per the necessity.
    Democratic society is like a flowers in a garden. its beauty lies different colors and together it serve the purpose. Imagine if all the flowers are in one color it would be really dull.
    Dharamsala is capital of Tibetans in exile, so i am surprise to such many NGO's. I stand with you that unity is most important for our cause but Unity doesn't mean putting everything in one basket. It also doesn't mean always work together at one direction. Be it individual or NGO Everyone has strength and weakness. so it important to work with what you are best in and how best it can represent and work for Tibet and Tibetan people.
    It is also important to work together when needed not just for the sack of or to show that Tibetan NGO r united. The best example is, India-which is a land of unity in diversities.
    About 'Tibetan National Congress' i believe it will serve as a umbrella for all the Rangzen Organisations and it's need of hour to have such body.

    Comments and suggestions welcome

    1. The problem is not the number of the organizations but their approach in the political arena, as the writer quite clearly was alluding to in his article, and the contradictory messages that is happening and is bound to happen. There are going to be conflicts as each is vying to put their Orgs name in the news or have a big plus next to their accomplishment list for the year. Then there is the ego that goes with that, which leads to the conflicts he was referring to in his article. For example, some orgs don't want the protestors to shout "Free Tibet" or "China out of tibet" and that leads to altercations or ruffling of feathers within the community and sends all sorts of wrong and confusing messagest to the news organizations and supporters alike. All the tibetan associations in the west are supposed to be politically neutral but recently there is a push to abide by the CTA message which creates yet another problem. And some organizations have just few hundred members or less but they still want equal standings with organization that have tens of thousands of members.

      But like you said, if there is a unified message for both sides, and both sides work in areas that they can collaborate on and agree to disagree on the political front, it will make it clearer for all concerned. If it is a social organization, then it should stick to social issues instead of muddying up the water. TWA is one example without a clear political front which must be made clear or they should butt out. That is my feeling and I hope nobody is offended.

  10. In fact, NDP is going to be in contradictory with the TYC---- They are started having clashes even with the beginning of this very idea of forming 'NTP'-- For instance, both the parties--NDP's upcoming global conference and TYC's upcoming annual global conference are going to clash each other--- If both the parties are meant for Rangzen and of course, members are all same Rangzen warriors members, then two meetings at one time or slightly at one time???

  11. The problem is: not too much NGOs or too less NGOs, but the problem is all the NGOs are messing up with some many activities (social, cultural, political, etc) though they say they belong to a different ideology.
    They are not focused, they are lost. Our NGOs should focus, should target and should work towards one goal with their own ideologies and methods. What the hell is TYC is doing--doing social work and religious work and all. TYC should focus on politics, political movement and target China. And NGOs like LHA and Volunteer Tibet should come up and the social works like serving at Kalachakra and all.

  12. Readers need patience to read this article --starting one is boring but if you read from top to bottom, this article is amazing and thoughtful. Kudos to the writer, plz pen more, you got the brain and eagle's eye to observe the society.

  13. Tenzin Phuntsok PamnorAugust 10, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    Hi, Tenzin Drumdul I do completely agree with you on your views on NGO's and TYC in particular. Pema thanks for taking patience in reading my article. I am happy my article is making waves and sense among my readers and I will be happy to come up with yet another firing article..

    Gyaltsen, you too have really understood the reality that is between NDPT and TYC.Its so good that you all are writing your own views. Its amazing to read you people....Thanks you all.

  14. Keep stirring the pot still.. I think we are getting into a very smooth disucssion. Lets all be a sincere Tibetan and discuss with honest opinion leaving behind all bureaucratic thoughts...

  15. you all keeping fucking Tibet, US agents

    1. Go back to your Amala fake Li Wang, learn basic civilize language and go back to class 1 to learn basic grammer. After these two, come back to comment for T.P. Pmnor la.

  16. Why don't you free your own people before yacking at us. A nation of willing slaves to any despot in the mood to enslave. Remember the shaved head saga in your history? Pathetic!

  17. heads off pamnor,,,, your article touched me. Lets keep our spirit high with determination.....
    With regard