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The Dalai Lama and Tibetan Religious Freedom

On this day, February 27, in 2009, Tapey, a Tibetan monk, committed self-immolation in Tibet and since then 127 Tibetans have self-immolated in different parts of Tibet and China, with the common message of yearning for the return of their revered leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for freedom, including religious freedom, in Tibet.

Today, the United States released its annual report on the state of human rights for 2013 all over the world; on Tibet they found that the Chinese Government “engaged in the severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage by, among other means, strictly curtailing the civil rights of China’s ethnic Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and movement.”

The above convey the gravity of the current situation of the Tibetan people in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has been leaving no stone unturned in his endeavor not only to look after the present and the future spiritual and social welfare of the Tibetan people, but also to make Buddhism relevant to the 21st century.

During the visit of His Holiness to Washington, D.C. and California in February 2014 (as I write this he is on his way to Minnesota to continue his effort), while there was widespread positive response from the American public, there were also some people in California who organized protests under the banner of “International Shugden Community”. Read More…

Of Belonging and Identity among Tibetans

My thoughts after reading Tsering Wangmo Dhompa’s “A Home in Tibet”

Bhuchung K. Tsering

A HOME IN TIBET

In the post 1959-Tibetan society, belonging and identity play a critical role in shaping the psyche of the Tibetan people. For Tibetans of the pre-1959 generation, the sense of belonging is more dominant; they have memory of their lives in Tibet before the Chinese and are clear about where they belong.  For example, for Tibetans who had escaped out of Tibet in and after 1959, a critical reason for wanting to regain their homeland is because they “belong” there and would like to return, mentioned in Tibetan simply as, “Bod la lok.”

For the post-1959 generation of Tibetans, the sense of identity plays an equal if not greater role.  Those who have been born and brought up in Tibet are overwhelmed by the direct and indirect attempts to provide them with a “Chinese identity.”

Those of this generation in exile are constantly posed with the question of self-identity; what is our identity? Who am I? Do we belong to something? This sense is all pervasive among the younger generation of Tibetans; it does not matter whether they are stateless, refugees, or individuals who have acquired citizenship of other countries.  All acquired identities were subordinate to the dominant perception that “I am a Tibetan.”

These Tibetans nevertheless are undergoing the same experience of exploration of their own roots, both literally and psychologically.  They have found different ways of expressing their feelings; in the immediate post 1959 period direct political activism was the dominant approach. The young Tibetans are also taught to identify themselves with Tibet in all aspects of their upbringing. Among the first song and dance routine that a majority of Tibetans in exile learnt was one popularly referred to as “Sildan Gangri’ that begins like this: “Surrounded by cool snow mountains; is the pure land of Tibet.”

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa’s “A Home in Tibet” is, to me, an encapsulation of these two types of mindsets among Tibetans. Through her mother’s story she expands on the quest for belonging while her own story is that of searching for her identity.

In the prologue, Tsering Wangmo writes about her mother, “All of her exile life she waited to return home.  She spoke of exile as something that would be expunged over time.  When this is over, we can go home.”

But as she details, her mother passed away in a tragic road accident and was not able to fulfill her aspiration of returning to her homeland.

Therefore, Tsering Wangmo’s journey to what is essentially her mother’s homeland in Tibet (because she herself was born in exile) is both a search for her own roots as well as fulfilling the unfulfilled desire of her mother. Read More…

Looking at Chen Quanguo’s Article on Tibet, with more than a pinch of salt

Here is my reaction (originally posted on the blog of International Campaign for Tibet) to this Chinese official’s rhetoric on Tibet.

Bhuchung

Chen Quanguo

Chen Quanguo
As part of my work I look at the statements by China’s leaders to see if they reveal anything about the current state of affairs in Tibet. This was particularly so after General Secretary Xi Jinping took over the leadership and people were having expectation that he will be different.
Therefore, it was interesting to read the article by Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Quanguo in the Party journal Quishi, “Ensuring the Security of Tibet’s Ideological Realm with Courage to Show One’s Sword” (Qiushi, No. 21, 2013), which has been translated into English by High Peaks Pure Earth.
It is about how the Chinese leadership should intensify the effort to control the minds of the Tibetan people through the media. People have read this essay as an indication of hardening of Chinese stand on the Tibetan people. In a way, it is, but to me the article has three other points worth noting. Let me expand.
First, the article is a concrete acknowledgement of failure of China’s Tibet policies to date. It talks about “hostile forces” that “have colluded with the clique of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, and have considered Tibet as a key area for infiltration and separatist activities and as the main battlefield for sabotaging and causing disturbances. They have tried all means to contend for the battlefield, popular feeling and the common people, thus, all their efforts have made Tibet the teeth of the storm in the struggle of the ideological realm.”
The article further says, “We will thoroughly carry out the educational activities of comparing Old Tibet with the New Tibet, instructing people of various ethnic groups to be grateful to the Party, listen to the Party and follow the Party.”
In other words, despite more than 60 years after the “liberation” the Chinese authorities have not been able to win over the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people, who are displaying indications of loyalty and reverence to the Dalai Lama.

Read More…

My Tryst with the Poet Nissim Ezekiel

My Tryst with the Poet Nissim Ezekiel

Bhuchung K. Tsering

I first came to know of Nissim Ezekiel when his poem, Night of the Scorpion, was part of the syllabus in my school.  At that time I was struck by two things; first the simplicity of the language that brought clarity to the message; and secondly the realization that people could survive even after a scorpion sting. Until reading it, I somehow had this understanding that a scorpion sting was always lethal.

Here is a taste of the poem describing the situation just after the scorpion had stung the mother’s toe:

With candles and with lanterns

throwing giant scorpion shadows

on the mud-baked walls

they searched for him: he was not found.

They clicked their tongues.

With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother’s blood, they said.

In any case, I read more about Mr. Ezekiel thereafter.  While in college in India in the early 1980s, I reached out to Mr. Ezekiel, both to get his counsel on my personal career as well as to understand his thoughts on Tibetan-Chinese relationship.

He was kind enough to respond, mostly through the familiar Indian postal department’s yellowish postcards.  We even kept a steady communication thereafter; he shared his thoughts about what certain developments on the Tibet front would be seen from the eyes of the international community and also offered space in the Freedom First, a liberal monthly, which he was editing then.

NEzekielBKT1981

Beginning with an article on “The Tragedy of the Tibetan People” in Freedom First’s October 1981 issue, I had the privilege of writing a few articles for the magazine.

freedomfirst1981

Mr. Ezekiel passed away in 2004 and I will always be grateful for the brief period of interaction that I have had with him.

In the years thereafter the liberal group of writers, artists, and scholars in Bombay (now Mumbai) to which Mr. Ezekiel belonged has continued their interest in Tibet, hosting events and raising the awareness among the people there.

Physical Demise of The Tibet Mirror Press in Kalimpong

Physical Demise of The Tibet Mirror Press in Kalimpong

Bhuchung K. Tsering

My poignant moment beside the Tibet Mirror Press site.

My poignant moment beside the Tibet Mirror Press site in April 2013

Just as the shops run by “kayens” that have historically catered to the Tibetan traders, there is another landmark in the Indian border town of Kalimpong that is dear to the Tibetan people; Babu Tharchin’s Tibet Mirror Press.  It is from this small nondescript place on Rishi Road that Bapu Tharchin attempted to create a literary revolution in Tibet through the publication of the only Tibetan language newspaper, Yulchog Sosoi Sargyur Melong, (Wylie:  yul phyogs so so’i gsar ‘gyur gyi me long, i.e. Mirror on the news from the respective countries, given in English as just Tibet Mirror). In the post 1959 period, books published by it have also contributed to the revival of Tibetan language, literature and grammar among the Tibetan speaking community outside of Tibet. Although Babu Tharchin and his Tibet Mirror Press did not hide their Christian missionary zeal and objective yet these did not hinder them from embracing the Tibetan Buddhist community in their natural setting.

Like other Tibetans, I have a reverence for Babu Tharchin although I have not been lucky enough to meet him when he was alive. In the late 1970s I had the opportunity to have a peek at this historical site, while on a visit to my relatives in Kalimpong.  In between I had the opportunity to read the three-volume biography of  Babu Tharchin, The Life and Times of a True Son of Tibet, Gergan Dorje Tharchin, by H. Louis Fader and also reviewed one of them for The Tibet Journal.

Earlier in 2013, in yet another brief visit to Kalimpong, I went to look the place up. Unfortunately, “modernization” had taken over and all I could find was a sign beside an empty plot where the press stood. I don’t know when exactly the physical structure was demolished but as I did a touristy thing of having a photo taken of myself beside the sign, I had a feeling of sadness.

Here are some photos, the first one is by me and the other two from the informative website about Kalimpong that gives you a glimpse of the Tibet Mirror Press in the past.  I can only echo the feeling of the writer on http://www.kalimpong.info who said, “It is a pity that Kalimpong’s rich and colorful history has been reduced to this.”

Just a "sign" of the times. "Tibet Mirror Press" today

Just a “sign” of the times. “Tibet Mirror Press” in April 2013

Kalimpong.info, which carries this photo of Babu Tharchin beside his Press was taken in 1957

Kalimpong.info, which carries this photo of Babu Tharchin beside his Press, says it  was taken in 1957

The Tibet Mirror Press was intact in 2008, according to www.kalimpong.info, when this photo was taken.

The Tibet Mirror Press was intact in 2008, according to http://www.kalimpong.info, when this photo was taken.

My take on Tibetan Youth and Society in 1990

Recently I had the opportunity to rummage through a box of some of my stuff that I had not touched for several years. In the box was a copy of August 1990 issue of March, the magazine of the Delhi Tibetan Youth Congress. It had carried an article of mine and, since I see its relevance still holds, I am posting it here, even though I can no longer be considered a part of the “young” generation. The article comes with the following note about me: “The author is a former student of Hans Raj College, Delhi University. Presently, he is a deputy secretary in the Office of Information & International Relations, Dharamsala.”

Tibetan Youth and Society

Bhuchung K. Tsering
March
(Magazine of the Delhi Tibetan Youth Congress)
August 1990

march1990
The monthly Tibetan Review carried in its September 1989 issue an article of mine on corruption in the Tibetan community in exile. In that article I have tried to analyze why, despite being a small community, such malpractices as embezzlement, misuse of public fund etc., seem to take place in the various offices under the Tibetan Government.

Since the article’s publication I have had quite a few reactions from both within the Tibetan as well as Indian and Western communities. Some praise me for having the ‘courage’ (I don’t know what they mean by that) to write such a piece. Others castigate me for having written it. In this article I would like to dwell on the latter (the adverse reaction) and attempt to show the importance of social awareness among the Tibetan youth.

Some of the adverse reactions have been conveyed to me directly while a few others have been heard from a third source. First, the reaction among the Tibetan community. Most of the young educated Tibetans appreciate the thrust of the article though some of them feel it would have been better if I had written it in a general way instead of pegging it on some scandals. A few others, mostly officials, feel a bit affected for having dwelt on such negative aspects of Tibetan officials. Among the older Tibetans, again some of them have heard about the article and appreciate it. A few others, I heard this from a colleague in McLeod Ganj, say, “that is the true colour of the Tibetan youths. They bring out the bad things in their own generation” or something to that effect. Read More…

My Talk in Minnesota on Understanding the Reality in Tibet

My Talk in Minnesota on Understanding the Reality in Tibet
http://www.tibetreport.wordpress.com
March 31, 2013

A shortsighted and meaningless effort by the Chinese Consulate in Chicago to propagandize about Tibet at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis led to an opportunity for me to go there and share my views on Tibet. The Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, the Students for a Free Tibet, Tibetan Youth Congress and the Tibetan Women’s Association in Minnesota asked me to come and be a part of the activities to present the Tibetan viewpoint so that we could challenge the Chinese exhibition on Tibet that was being organized in the University.
So, I spoke on March 27, 2013 at the venue of the Tibetan people’s exhibition on Tibet at the University, which was next door to the one organized by the Chinese students and funded by the Chinese consulate (the story of how the Chinese had to cancel/withdraw their activities in the light of this Tibetan onslaught is a different story, some of which have appeared in the local newspaper, Star-Tribune). I titled my talk “Reality in Tibet Today.”
In my talk, I talked about the different aspects of the Tibetan issue, including political, environmental, human rights angle, and how His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan side had responded positively to Deng Xiaoping’s message that “other than the issue of independence everything else can be discussed and resolved.” I said His Holiness had not only presented his Middle Way Approach as a response but that he had also prepared the Tibetan people to accept that this was in the best interest of both the sides. I told of my own experience of interacting with ordinary Chinese and how we Tibetans have been educated by His Holiness to differentiate between Chinese Government and people and how we should be reaching out to the people. I said, however, the Chinese side had not fulfilled their part of the commitment made by Deng Xiaoping about everything else could be discussed and resolved. The Chinese side has also not prepared the Chinese people and instead is projecting the Tibetans as being against the Chinese people.
But this blog is about another talk that the organizers had arranged for me, which was to the Tibetan community. This took place on March 26, 2013. Despite it being a weekday and people had to go to work, there was a reasonable turnout of Tibetans, old and young. Read More…

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