A Young Tibetan youth sporting a T-Shirt with picture of Ernesto Che Guevara and screaming Anti-China slogans. China, a communist country and Che, a legendary guerrilla hero whose beliefs lied in communism. A contradiction? Maybe not. Maybe it signifies the warning bells. A 49-year-old movement is at cross roads when the baton is handed down to the third generation of refugees….
“We Don’t want to fade away like the Red Indians”, says 26 years old Tenzin Tsethar, an analyst at an Insurance firm in the city. Tsethar is a Tibetan who had joined his fellow countrymen (living as refugees across India), thousands in numbers, at a peace march which was arranged today from Chikkalalbagh to M G Statue to protest against the recent Chinese crackdown on Tibetans in Lhasa. 10th of March this year marked the 49th anniversary of Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation. Pro Tibet demonstrations at Lhasa resulted in large-scale violence with Chinese armed forces coming down heavily on the protesters. The continuing tension there has suddenly spurted a growth in Pro-Tibetan demonstrations across the world including Bangalore.
The protesters at Bangalore consisted of a mix of Tibetan refugees from all walks of life ranging from old monks from monasteries to youth growing up in city. Tsethar along with few other Tibetan colleagues joined in the entire day’s demonstration in spite of not getting an official paid leave sanctioned. He says, “I am not bothered about my job being in jeopardy. I am more concerned about the lives of Tibetans in Lhasa which is in real jeopardy”. His views are shared by Tenzin Pasang, a 21-year-old woman living the BPO dream of Bangalore. Pasang says, “Since the moment we heard about the violence that broke out in Lhasa, we haven’t had peace of mind. We live as refugees in India but we feel a sense of freedom here. But, our brothers and sisters back in Tibet enjoy no freedom. In every Tibetan house in India, you’ll find two things in common. One, the Tibetan national flag and the other, a portrait of his Holiness Dalai Lama. You can’t find the same thing back in Lhasa as Chinese army will arrest you if they come to know of it”. Pasang has five other Tibetan colleagues at her BPO. They all work in the morning shift between 4:00 am and 1:00 p.m. Since March 10th, they have all actively been taking part during the evenings after work, in political activities leading to the peace march in the city. Being deprived of adequate rest is of no significance to them.
It’s been 49 years since Tibetans having been living as refugees in settlements across India. Today, the Tibetan youth seem to be increasingly becoming restless with the status quo and lack of support received from governments across the world. 21 years old students Tenzin Chodar and Tenzin Dablo agree that views of the third generation Tibetans are radically turning to be different from their predecessors. Dablo says, “Goals of all Tibetans maybe the same but the methods are turning to be different. In this age of You Tube, your blood will naturally boil when you watch videos of Buddhist nuns being tortured by the army of communist China”.
What about their Indian colleagues and classmates? Do they discuss politics and share views with them? When asked this question, Chodar says, “Yes, some of our Indian friends show interest while others are not interested. They support us, encourage us and do give us ideas to carry on with protest. But they are unable to join us in protests as they have their own preoccupations in life”.
The difference in views of the Tibetan leadership and youth is clearly indicated when you see the banners and placards carried by protesters which read out ‘Freedom and independence for Tibet’, while the leadership has talked of political autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule. Tsethar says that, “We respect the views of his Holiness. But today patience is running out amongst us. Political autonomy will be great, if not freedom for Tibet as a country, at least the Tibetans should be given cultural freedom which is missing as of now”. The decision of IOC (International Olympic Committee) to let China host the 2008 summer Olympics has not gone down well too. Pasang says, “How can China host Olympics when it is committing human rights abuse in Tibet. Something has to be done to oppose it. If we youth do not voice opinion against it. Then who else will do so?”
The Tibetan youth in today’s world are at cross roads. They say they are witnessing what they term as ‘double standards’ when it comes to self-determination for a nation. They look at issues related to East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq and feel they have not enjoyed support from the world as China is a super power. There is a sense of disillusionment in their minds. Some of them seem to be giving up hope. 25-year-old Tsering Dolkar is a Public Relations Officer with the Tibetan Women’s Association. She says, “There is a difference in the way the Tibetan struggle for independence is looked at between the youth from settlement and those from cities. Generally, there is not much active involvement seen in today’s youth from cities. There seems to be a denial. This probably is because the way the protests have been carried out over last 49 years (hunger strikes, peace march, candle light vigils) seem to less effective. Maybe, youth are losing hope due to this. There is a urgent need for change in the way we fight. But, the only way to change the system is by being part of it. That’s why I am actively involved in politics. I want to try to bring about change. The youth must come forward with their ideas to keep the movement going on. The culture must not be lost. The original refugees in India were not educated. The next generation of Tibetans in exile had little education but did not have much opportunities. But now, the world seems to have opened up. Everyone wants to make use of the opportunities. You can’t blame the youth for it. Everyone wants to lead a decent life. We can’t apply for government jobs or buy property in India because we are having refugee status. That’s why I see an increase in Tibetans who want to apply for Indian citizenship. The current situation at Lhasa has led to awakening amongst many Tibetans. The movement has gained momentum and people are coming forward and taking part now. The focus gained now, must not be lost. The United Nations must come forward to solve the issue”.
There were few Indians taking part in the march. One of them on condition of anonymity said, “It is hurting to see that India and rest of the democratic world has not done much for the movement which is based on non-violence. I am afraid that at this rate there could be a day when the Tibetans may lose patience and the world may see armed groups of Tibetans. The world which has to take blame for it, if and when it happens”. The anonymous prophecy’s accuracy can only be confirmed by what lies ahead in future. But, the young generation of Tibetans are definitely seeking a change.