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Features latest news & information on Tibet and H. H. the Dalai Lama.

Friday, March 23, 2007

History repeats itself over and over again-we never learn our lessons!!



George Bernard Shaw said, "Must then Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?" Likewise, should one nation or the other; one community or the other always be the 'sacrificial lamb' so as to wake up the whole humanity every half century!!
Our school History textbooks are replete with various instances of horrific bloodshed and repression that happened over the ages. I was never a great fan of history as a subject until I got introduced to contemporary history. I got completely engrossed in the world wars and their various effects and consequences.
And I was most moved by the repression and the massacre of Jews by the Nazis. Maybe, its because being a Tibetan myself I emphathize with what the Jews went through during that period. I still find it so hard to believe that the whole world can remain so deaf, dumb and blind, all at the same time. when fellow human beings were slaughtered and exterminated like some disease causing pests. I still shudder at the thought that countries like England and the USA, who could have made a difference, turned their backs at this hour of need of their neighbouring continent-Europe.

Only when destruction and death knocked on their doors, did they felt the pinch! How many deaths could have been avoided by a timely intervention!!

It really despairs me to realize that millions died in a war caused by the whims and fancies of a single man-Hitler and his idealism-Nazism. More than half a century has passed and though the earth has aged in these years, man has not grown any wiser. Humanity is still the same.

One country 'China, and its idealism-communism is day by day and year by year creeping nearer and nearer towards the domination of a continent' and maybe someday on to the world!!! And in the process they don't care a hoot whether they trample underneath their ever-widening strides, a nation with an ancient and a precious civilization, a nation boasting of the purest people and environment!!

The whole world, as long as they attain their materialistic gains doesn't care whether a nation and its identity is being erased off the face of the world and earth. Haven't they learned from history that whatever happens in the neighbourhood doesn't happen in isolation-sooner or later everyone feels the repercussions???

George Bernard Shaw said, "Must then Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?" Likewise, should one nation or the other; one community or the other always be the 'sacrificial lamb' so as to wake up the whole humanity every half century!! Is man evolving towads the attainment of his better and perfect self or this evolution is leading us towards our own destruction??

The whole world turned a blind eye when Hitler carried on his heartless regime of hatred. Then, it was the Jews who had to lay down their lives. Now, Is it the turn of the Tibetans to take on that mantle???

Millions will have to redden this earth with their blood, then only will the world wake up from this self-induced sleep. Will the whole world stare blindingly at the creeping snake until its sitting on its chest-ready to sting its poisonous sting?

According to His Holiness in his Memoirs, the invasion of Tibet is the first step taken by communist china towards the domination of Asia and then on to world domination.

Except for India, China holds the reins of most Asian countries which are unstable like Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, Sri-lanka, Bangladesh and North Korea. Invading Tibet has already brought them right next to India's borders. And now the Golmud-Lhasa train has made their imperialistic ambitions easier and also more clear to everyone. India is at present surrounded by hostile nations and moreover the so-called 'Maoists' are also creating lots of problems and destructions inside of India. India's neighbours are ruled by more or less puppet governments and leaders whose connection with the Chinese government is no longer hidden from the eyes of the world.

If I, a mere lay person can see all these, then what are all these big and powerful nations doing?? The so-called leaders of the free world!! Just being mere spectators to the imperialistic designs of a greedy nation!! They are more busy with pointless wars over 'oil' and their 'egoes'.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

‘The Mother of the Land of Snows’



For [43] years, I have devoted my life to children. I do not know anything about politics and I am certainly not a politician. I do not work for honours or for a monument to be erected in my memory. I want to remain honest to myself and to my religion, Buddhism. I sincerely want to serve the children and this is my contribution to the Tibetan cause.1

In 1961, when Jetsun Pema first arrived in Dharamshala, she found “a place withdrawn from the world, far from civilization”. The scene at McLeod Gunj was “one of complete chaos: three buildings, just one shop, and canvas tents everywhere. The Tibetans were in rags, children were crying and trembling with cold, and the women seemed stunned by the weight of their misfortune. What suffering must they have gone through before arriving at this town of misery?”
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Some 80 thousand Tibetans had followed His Holiness the Dalai Lama, when he escaped to India in 1959, and relocated the Tibetan administration in Mussoorie, and then, Dharamshala in 1960. The main tasks before the exile administration were rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees in exile and restoration of freedom in Tibet. However, other than relief supplies, finding work for the Tibetan refugees proved to be a tall order; most of them, being peasants and nomads, lacked professional skills. The immediate solution was road building in the hilly regions of Kullu and Jammu, where gangs of two to three hundred Tibetans were dispatched.
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Besides, “The children have been a special anxiety2,” His Holiness writes in his memoirs (My Land and My People, published in 1962). “It is even harder for children than for adults to be uprooted and taken suddenly to an entirely different environment, and many of them died in the early days from the change of food and climate. We had to do something drastic to preserve their health—and their education was also a matter of great importance.
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”Traditional Tibetan education, despite all its virtues, had failed to catch up with the sprinting world outside Tibet. His Holiness therefore could not agree more when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru told him that the education of children is Tibet’s hope for the future. With generous assistance from the Indian government, boarding schools were thus established, first at Mussoorie on 3 March 1960, and later at Darjeeling, Shimla, Kalimpong and Dalhousie.
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Excluded still were the preschool infants, who suffered “most of all from the climate of India, and the exposure to infections which hardly exist in Tibet. Their parents knew only too well that they could not look after them properly.” Many children moreover were orphaned or separated from their families during the arduous escape across the Himalayas. Writes His Holiness, “So, I offered them all my personal protection. I decided to set up a Nursery and place it in the hands of my elder sister”, Tsering Dolma Takla, since a batch of 51 children had arrived from Jammu on 17 May 1960, after Tibetan officials had fanned out in various road camps, urging the refugees to enroll their children under the administration’s care.
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“The result was somewhat overwhelming,” says His Holiness. “Almost before we knew where we were, 800 tiny children had been handed over to our care. My sister and her voluntary helpers had to improvise the barest necessities of life for this enormous family. We still cannot afford to give these little children the slightest luxury, but we can make sure that they are loved and kept healthy and happy—insofar as the children of refugees can ever be happy.”
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For this, the Government of India, generous as ever, rendered three disused bungalows in gradual succession—Conium House, Egerton Hall and Kishore Nivas. “After gathering the children in Dharamshala, my sister kept the youngest with her and sent those who were over eight, in groups of between 20 and 50, to the various boarding schools, according to where rooms were available,” writes Jetsun Pema in her memoir (Tibet: My Story, published in 1996, out now in ten different languages). But then, “Soon these five schools were full, so we had to keep the children in the then ‘Nursery for Tibetan Children.”
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When Jetsun Pema, after appearing for the Senior Cambridge exams at Loreto convent in Darjeeling, first set foot in Dharamshala, the sheer gravity of the situation “drove [her] to action rather than to despair”. “My sister had the greatest need of me. The children had to be washed, dressed and given their meals. Several elderly Tibetans volunteered to help. I served as an interpreter for the doctors and nurses of the Swiss Red Cross.”
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After surviving the first months of exile in Dharamshala, she left for further studies in Switzerland and England. When she returned in 1964, some improvements had come to pass in what was by then a virtual village, with over 800 children and 100 staff. “Tsering Dolma now had an office, even though it was only a narrow room, with a typewriter and a few chairs.” But 1964 turned out to be “a black year”, doomed for damnation, as only months after a car accident nearly did her in, her sister, Tsering Dolma Takla, passed away in a prolonged battle with cancer. She was 44.“
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Tsering Dolma had devoted her life to the children in exile,” Jetsun Pema recalls. “She had created from scratch the structures which had enabled hundreds to avoid almost certain death and, after the first urgent medical care, to receive little by little a sound education in a climate of love, tenderness and understanding.”
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Although ashes of the deceased are normally consigned to mountains or rivers, hers are still preserved in an urn by the village. “Perhaps one day, when we return to Tibet, we will take them with us.”
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Jetsun Pema knew what her entire family expected of her in the wake of Tsering Dolma’s demise. So when His Holiness called upon Jetsun Pema—the name bears the hallmark of being the first ever name given by His Holiness3—to carry forward her sister’s endeavours, she simply “rolled up her sleeves and got on with it”. But, a heavy responsibility, it nonetheless was, especially for a young woman of 24. “I felt completely lost.” Every day presented a new challenge to surmount with bare minimum resources at her disposal. And often when faced with a conundrum, she would avail of His Holiness’ sagacity. “Although sometimes he must have had enough of my coming in to ask for yet more advice, he never showed it.”
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Meanwhile, year in, year out, children kept pouring in, in droves, as did the amount of cheques dispatched by various organizations and individuals from across the globe. But with each year passed in exile, the odds against a speedy return to Tibet stacked up. And in order to hold out for the Tibetan cause, the need of a strong base in exile began to sink in. The plan then was not to build merely houses, but homes with virtual families. As the scheme of “sponsoring a child at 10 dollars” hit the ground running, Jetsun Pema relentlessly pursued building more homes—beginning in 1966, when the first home for 25 sponsored children was built at the cost of 20,000 rupees.
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“This home system worked wonders”, for only in such an environment could the deep emotional wounds and mental anxiety common in the children of refugees be healed or “exorcised”. In order to revamp into “a fully integrated community where children under its care would receive not only the warmth and security of a home and a mother to share with brothers and sisters, but also a good education”4,the Nursery for Tibetan Refugee Children registered under the new name of the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) in 1971. In the same year, it also became a full-fledged member of the SOS Kinderdorf International, Vienna, which has since continued to provide “the backbone support for all the major projects of the TCV”.
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With a sound financial standing, the village could provide a better, holistic modern education, firmly entrenched in Tibetan religion and culture, and also, upgrade the level of school curriculum from Secondary to Senior Secondary (10+2). The village also had considerable freedom in adapting its education programme, especially in the primary and middle levels, to suit the actual needs of the Tibetan people. In 1985, inspired by the Indian policy that every child should receive primary education in their mother tongue, the village began the pioneering task of “Tibetanising” the primary education by changing the medium of instruction from English to Tibetan (which was later successfully replicated in all the present 80-odd Tibetan schools across India and Nepal).
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In just about half a century, from a modest crèche of 51 children to a multi-state juggernaut of over 15,000 children and 1,200 staff, “The TCV grew out of sheer necessity”, along with the swelling tide of orphans and destitute children in exile—especially the glut of children in the 1980s, when thousands escaped into India, following relatively relaxed Chinese policies. In between 1980 and 1982 alone, “more than 1,000 managed to reach Dharamshala”. Several hundred of which went straight into the fold of the TCV. “There was absolutely no question of us turning away children from Tibet...they represented not just our only hope but also the only hope for their parents,” Jetsun Pema wrote. New children’s villages, schools, youth hostels, technical and vocatiowitnal training centres were thus established across the length and breadth of India, from Ladakh in the North to Bylakuppee in the South.
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“A tragedy is revealed”, when Jetsun Pema leads the third fact-finding delegation to Tibet in 1980—after the Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping conveyed that anything but complete independence is negotiable, and that the Tibetan exiles could visit Tibet and bear witness to its actual progress. However, after a three-month long journey, the findings of what was an “educational delegation” only proved that “even the notion of education is a farce in Tibet”. Wherever they went, the Chinese officials bombarded them with rosy figures of “permanent lies and deceit”. “In some villages, the Chinese even went so far as to create a school just for the duration of our visit.” Crestfallen, the delegation returned to Dharamshala with a sackful of letters, or petitions—about 7,000 in total, most addressed to His Holiness—which were discreetly handed to them during their journey across Tibet.
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After a series of landmark changes ushered in the process of democratizing exile Tibetan polity, in 1990, Jetsun Pema became the first woman to be elected as Kalon in the exile history, or in fact, the entire Tibetan history. Her enduring legacy as the Education Kalon5 was the “Tibetanization” of education in all Tibetan schools, including those directly under the Indian Ministry of Education.
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Surprising as it may though appear, when it came to her being a Kalon, she had been brutally self-deprecating, claiming she was “a bad choice at a time when Tibet had so many problems. In my opinion, the community already had a sufficient number of talented people. I had no idea about politics; my only talent lay in the field of education.” She offered to resign four times; His Holiness accepted her resignation finally in 1993. Even in an interview last year to Tibetan World, when asked if she could be the next Kalon Tripa, she conveyed the same message: “Oh not at all!...I think if you are action-oriented, it’s better to be at the grass roots level than higher up there.”6
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Even as Jetsun Pema is 66 today, she continues to persevere with her knack to remain “hands-on” and “action-oriented”—evident from the modest fact that all her three children have had their schooling not in some privileged, “English schools”, but in the TCV, just as its orphans and destitute children.
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“My retirement doesn’t mean I will just sit back and chant mantras,” she was quoted as saying, after handing over the presidentship to the then executive director of the village, Tsewang Yeshi, who was democratically elected by the members of the governing body, in a conclave on 5 August. In her new role as chairman of the newly inducted, seven-member executive council, the highest decision making body of the village, which will supplant the erstwhile nine-member governing body, Jetsun Pema continues to remain committed to the larger goals of the TCV, and its mammoth undertakings like construction of a Tibetan college in Bangalore.
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Although not yet in the twilight of her career, Jetsun Pema’s accomplishments thus far have been extolled from a wide spectrum of perspectives: from the lyrics of “Ama Jetsun Pema la”, the song of the year 2004, in which an ex-TCV, sophomore in the Delhi University pours his heart out in gratitude for his “loving and compassionate mother”; to the honorary title of the “Mother of the Land of Snows”, conferred by the Assembly in 1995, “as an expression of gratitude for [then] over 35 years of her selfless service to the Tibetan cause”, adding that “The TCV is the greatest of tangible accomplishments achieved under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” The best, perhaps, was in the citation of her recent nomination for the prestigious World Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child7: “Her tireless work has saved lives and given tens of thousands of Tibetan refugee children a home, a family, education and hope for the future."

Footnotes:
(1) Tibet: My Story, Jetsun Pema
(2) My Land and My People, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
(3) Just days after she was born, His Holiness named her Jetsun Pema. His Holiness was only five years old.
(4) “Caring for the Weakest: The Children’s Villages” by Jetsun Pema, published in Exile As Challenge: The Tibetan Diaspora, 2003
(5) She was also the Kalon for Health
(6) Tibetan World, July 2005, Vol. II, Issue 1
(7) The World Children’s Prize, founded by the Swedish organization Children’s World, conferred the World Children’s Honorary Award to Jetsun Pema on 20 April 2006, in Sweeden
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Dhondup Gyalpo
DG

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Another 10 March - Another Mandatory Function?



Another 10th March is here and another mandatory function will be held and a march will be undertaken for a Free Tibet. But today more than ever before, the dream of a Free Tibet is getting farther and farther and almost turning into a mirage for the freedom thirsty Tibetans...always there in front of us but never reaching us.

Our grandfather and grandmothers' generations were the ones who can look back on this day and say that: "Yes!!! they rose for what they believed and against a foreign invasion on their own soil, risking their lives and a lot more. Our parents suffered the real repurcussions of a life in exile. But for our generation; born and brought up in exile....Tibet was our motherland and we its future generation and it was our duty to get our freedom back. We were never made to forget by our elders about this load on our shoulders and the ever popular rebuke about the "R" on our foreheads whenever they thought we strayed out of line.

I still remember those Uprising Days commemorated during our school days. The long line that was made for the march till the market centre. People from all walks of life participated-students, teachers, parents, old people, sweater sellers etc and etc. At the start of the march we would feel quite conscious of the people around watching the long procession of shouting Tibetans.But gradually we would be carried away by the historical relevance of the day and we would be shouting ourselves hoarse. I still remember those slogans: "UNO we want justice","Bhago Bhago- Chinese Bhago", and the most catchy of all-"Jaan bhi dhenga,Khoon bhi dhenga Desh ki mitti kabhi na dhengei". And at the end of the procession most of us would find ourselves with a bad sore throat. But with a great satisfaction in our mind.Whether it made any difference or not, but we felt like we had done something for our nation. And it was a very good feeling because being far from one's nation we never got any chance of showing off our patriotism and nationalism.

Time have gone by and we find our place of being the future generations of Tibet has long been taken by a new set of generation. A generation that finds itself farther from their motherland than our generation. And the one day that we, during our days, got to get in touch with our nation's struggle for freedom by shouting ourselves hoarse....has become another mandatory function and a holiday for this new generation.They can't feel the difference between a peace process and passivity. So it isn't any wonder that we find most of our youth so passive. They feel helpless and when given the opportunity they go to extreme lengths as can be seen by the self immolation attempt by Lhakpa tsering in Mumbai during last years Hu visit.

They don't get an outlet to express that silent rage and the emptiness they feel for being a nationless people. Once it was almost unthikable not to attend any function commemorating 10th March and now we find people finding it another formality to be observed which is of no use.

Once we felt proud of being called the future seeds of Tibet and responsible for making our nation free and take our free nation into modernity. Now when I tell the young kids that they have to get our freedom back..they shoot back without batting an eyelid, "It was our grandparents generation who lost it and now we have to get it back.Its not fair!!!" I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

I can't blame them either. The passive nature of our freedom struggle and the ongoing cynicism of their elders lead to them being disbelieve in a future Free Tibet. I had a talk with someone the day before and his take on returning to a FreeTibet is--'Firstly we will never get back our freedom and if we did then its a loss for us exile borns to go to Tibet .we won't get anything.All will be taken by those in Tibet!"

I don't know which led to which...the change in policy to this cynicism or is change in time and mindsets responsible??

Maybe rooting for an Independent Tibet is more fulfilling for most Tibetans however impossible it may be; rather than asking only for an autonomy and waiting on the beck and call of a conscience less opponent!

--Conscience

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Politics in Sports



"The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn't separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That's why the Olympic Flame should never die."

Guess who was speaking?

Before you rack your brains any further, redeem yourself, for it was Adolf Hitler, commenting on the Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany in 1936. For those who say, "politics and sports may be uncomfortable bedfellows, but they are inseparable", Hitler's Games continue to reign as the master of Olympic scandals, or as a most famous politicization of sports.

The pomp and pageantry that characterize the Olympics today are believed to have been the legacy of the Berlin Games, which the Nazi regime exploited to bedazzle the world with the newly resurgent Germany in the aftermath of World War I. Ironic as it may seem, Hitler’s Olympics was also the first to feature the torch relay from the ruins of Olympia in Greece to the host city—a ritual faithfully performed at every subsequent Games.
A popular belief has it that Hitler’s abuse of the Games to demonstrate the superiority of the “Aryan” race was famously scuttled by black American athlete Jesse Owens, who scored a string of golds. But then, in the final analysis, Hitler must have been gratified by the Berlin Games, as Germany raked in more medals than all the other countries combined. Which is why, according to historian Richard D. Mandell, the 1936 Olympics marked "an important episode in the establishment of an evil political regime".

Just as the Games hosted by Nazi Germany was opposed by the United States and many Western democracies, the host of 2008 Olympics, yet another authoritarian regime, also faced international outrage, led chiefly by the Amnesty International. In fact, one of the reasons why China won the bid to host the 2008 Games was that it has pledged to address environmental concerns, human rights grievances, restrictive press laws, and censorship of Internet.

For instance, Wang Wei, secretary general of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee was quoted by China Daily, 13 July 2001, as saying: "We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China. [...] We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promotes our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights."

Rest assured, in the lead up to the Olympics, we will be hearing an earful of how China failed to live up to its promises—particularly as the world's biggest jailor of journalists for the seventh year running, is required to allow foreign scribes to report across the country, without the official permission previously required.

For now, as Beijing is spruced up for hosting the world’s first “Green Olympics", it is about time we whizzed through the politics of sport in China. In Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People’s Republic, Susan Browell contends that, “sports were emptied of their muscular Christian moral content and replaced with contents that suited the needs of the politics and tenor of the times in China. The muscular Christian morality (sic) of fair play, citizenship, and democracy was replaced over time with Chinese discourses about national prestige and international competition”.

“While the physical structure of modern sports is fixed by international rules, there is quite a room for variability in the cultural beliefs that accompany them. An example of this variability was the importance of logic of ‘face’ in Chinese sports and the difficulty of translating the concept of ‘fair play’ into Chinese.”

Just as the Berlin Games changed the face of what was until then “modest affairs”, one can only hope that the Beijing Olympics will be anything but “different”—particularly given that China is a veteran in the game of mixing sports and politics—notably since the ping-pong diplomacy of the 1970s. To cite another instance, following the death of Mao and the overthrow of the Gang of Four, when Deng Xiaoping came into power, he celebrated it with the grandest national games up to that time.

Many contend that following the demise of the Cold War and the global IT boom, the Olympic Games increasingly serve as the arena for debate about modern nationhood and international relations. According to John MacAloon, "Being a nation, having a culture, are the chief requirements for claiming a rightful autonomous place in the global system." And, "to be a nation recognized by others and realistic to themselves, a people must march in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies procession." This is precisely why, Susan Browell sums it up: “The Olympic games have become the world’s largest single event for the production of national culture for international consumption.”

The Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 and the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 marked respectively the emergence of Japan and Korea as world powers. Now, how will the Beijing Olympics inaugurate the “sleeping giant” onto the global stage?

The Olympic Charter may oppose any political abuse of sports and athletes, but the truth of the matter is, just as the original Olympics had their origins in the politics of the time, the modern Olympics have been the arena for wars, boycotts, protests, walkouts and terrorist attacks.

One therefore cannot fault Li Wei, the director of China’s Counter-terrorism Studies Centre, who was recently quoted by the state media as saying: "Nowhere can be 100 per cent safe, especially as terrorism is now a global issue and the Olympics will offer a mouth-watering opportunity for groups such as Al-Qaeda to spread terror."

Mr Li of course is spooked by the thought of the 1972 Munich Games, in which a group of militants, claiming to be members of the Palestinian organization “Black September”, slipped into the Olympic Village, killed two Israeli team members, and took nine other members hostage. Later, in a botched rescue attempt, all nine hostages were also killed in a shootout between the militants and the West German forces.

“The Munich attack," according to an author specializing in conflict studies, "was one of the most significant terrorist incidents of recent times, one that thrust the Palestinian cause into the world spotlight, and set the tone for decades of conflict in the Middle East.”
As they say, every opportunity has its pros and cons—not least of all the Olympics, which has a long history of being a double-edged sword, for both the host and its hostages. It thus appears Mr Li Wei will have his hands full, at least until the Games are over.
Dhondup Gyalpo

Monday, March 5, 2007

Could Tibet be the next Palestine?



While I watched images of "The Arab world's only true democracy"--as Palestinians would call themselves--tottering on the edge of a civil war, and while the shadow of Yasser Arafat haunts the Palestinian people, as they grapple with the need for a leader who could articulate their collective aspirations with some degree of international "acceptance", I was reminded of our own predicament, if the issue of Tibet is not resolved during the lifetime of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

"There will not be a single Tibetan leader who can keep the Tibetans together and make them agree to the kind of solution that His Holiness has proposed. It would be impossible," Special Envoy Lodi Gyari was quoted as saying in an interview before the 5th round of Sino-Tibetan talks.
He further added, "Today the Chinese have the opportunity to deal with one single individual. In the absence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, they will have to deal with hundreds of solutions, with hundreds of individuals, none of them able to deliver a solution."
Could Tibet then be the next Palestine?

As one tries to compare and contrast the Palestinian and Tibetan struggles, the most glaring contradictions between the two may be the (present) modes of their struggle--while the former is fraught with extreme violence, the latter has a surfeit of extreme non-violence. However, are these differences circumstantial, as such temporary; or visceral, as such permanent?

I recall a BBC radio phone-in programme, following the screening of the documentary We Are No Monks, in which one commentator dismissed the notion that the Tibetan struggle could ever turn violent (even if the Sino-Tibetan problem continued to fester indefinitely.) He gave two reasons: violence is against the Tibetan religion and culture, and secondly, extremism or terrorism is successful only in a democratic country, not under a ruthless authoritarian regime. I was quite appreciative of both these reasons, as they did not exaggerate the altruistic portion of the Tibetan psyche. This, however, does not take away my total rejection of those comments as mere speculations.

First of all, non-violence is no more against the Tibetan culture than it is to any other civilization of the world. (I reckon even the devils would love their peace.) Likewise, all cultures are equally capable of not only tolerating or condoning violence, but also engaging in or patronizing it, at particular times of mitigating circumstances--say at times of war, when the national or collective well-being is in jeopardy.

In those circumstances, violence assumes, at least for its handlers, the hallowed form of a "crusade", "jehad", "dharma yudh", or in our case, Tensung (protection of dharma). That is why people say, "one country's terrorist is another country's freedom fighter". [This, however, does not mean that I am glorifying violence. Far from it, I believe that if the peaceful Tibetan struggle turns violent, it would be a catastrophic tragedy for not only Tibetans and Chinese, but also for the whole world, as Tibet would then have become an epitome of the failure of non-violence as a means of freedom struggle.]

I agree with the second comment, but only in part. The main reason why extremism, or terrorism, is said to be effective (only) in democracy may be due to its institutions like the constitution, rule of law, free press, free elections, independent judiciary, active civil society, etc., which prevent or check the state from suppressing, denying or curtailing the rights and freedoms afforded to all its citizenry--while the authorities of a totalitarian state would have a virtual carte blanche to act with full impunity.

This notion is also not without exceptions. In this age of global terrorism, most democratic countries facing problems of extremism have introduced new laws that equip the state for circumventing or overriding legal and even constitutional restrictions, in the name of "national security". In fact, the arguments and justifications put up by the democratic countries for suppressing the fundamental rights and freedoms of their subjects are now effectively replicated by the totalitarian regimes. Besides, if one were to listen to Mr. George W. Bush, then the war on global terrorism is increasingly being underlined as a clash between democracy and authoritarianism, that terrorism is a result of lack of democracy--albeit I find it hard to believe that democracy reduces terrorism.

Coming back to the non-violent nature of the Tibetan struggle, I recall a feisty debate with a friend, who viewed that the Tibetan struggle is non-violent because it cannot afford to be violent. I begged to differ lock, stock and barrel. I told her that non-violence is not an act of desperation--it is not like the Indian satirical verse, Majboori ka nam Gandhi (literally, the second name of desperation is Gandhi).

Furthermore, His Holiness also often reiterates that non-violence is a conscious choice, based on the belief that violence ultimately begets only more violence, and despite the temptation of readily employable non-violent methods.

I further told my friend that today you do not need an army or sophisticated weaponry to fight a war--certainly not in the aftermath of 9/11, when even a handful of people, armed with pocket knifes, could wreak havoc upon even the mighty super power. But to no avail, she refused even an agreement to disagree on this issue. I eventually end up asking her how big an army would she need to unscrew one bolt of a railway track? Disgusted by the idea, almost incredulous, she indignantly blurted out, "But that would kill so many people."

"Now you are talking!"

Dhondup Gyalpo

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