Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tsundue and Tibet

Dharamsala, like the 36 other settlements that the Indian government allotted to Tibetans fleeing Chinese-occupied Tibet, was meant to be a temporary refuge. But four decades after these settlements were established, Tibetans born in India still belong to the category of "stateless people." As permanent refugees, it is not easy for them to get jobs or own property. Tibetans selling woolen clothes and cheap electronic goods are a common sight on the streets of Indian cities. Even in Dharamsala, the Tibetans told me, they live in constant fear of India's often highhanded police. A few days before I arrived in Dharamsala, the police intervened in a dispute between an Indian shopkeeper and Tibetans by frog-marching the Tibetans through the main street. Yet few Tibetans wish to return to what they regard as a country under brutal occupation. According to recent Human Rights Watch reports, which confirm many Tibetan accounts, the Communist regime in Beijing continues to detain without trial, to torture and to execute those it suspects of being separatists or merely sympathizers of the Dalai Lama. More than 2,000 refugees arrive each year in Dharamsala from Chinese-occupied Tibet.

The quote is from Pankaj Mishra's sympathetic portrayal [via Sepia Mutiny] of Tibetan nationalist movement. In particular, its younger leaders like Tenzin Tsundue, the man who staged dramatic protests by unfurling the Tibetan flag during the visits of Chinese Premiers at the Oberoi Towers in Mumbai in 2002 and at IISc in Bangalore earlier this year.

Mishra, who argued (in a recent NYTimes op-ed ) that nationalism has been a great driving force for large scale violence, tries hard -- and to an extent, succeeds -- in this article to sympathise with the cause of Tibetan nationalism.

You can read Tsundue's essay My kind of exile (which won the Outlook-Picador Essay Contest in 2001) here. Dilip D'Souza has a post about Tsundue's protest at IISc, and another about three courageous nuns who suffered torture and solitary confinement in prisons for ... refusing to sing the Chinese national anthem.

Update (25 December): Dilip, in his comment below, points to his report on the meeting addressed by the three Tibetan nuns.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Thanks for the focus on Tenzin and Tibet, Abi. It's needed.

    You might want to read this piece too, I wrote it after the meeting with the Tibetan nuns.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Abi, thanks for links to Pankaj Mishra's articles. There indeed is more than what meets the eye. Thanks for the leads.

  3. Abi said...

    Dilip, Sajith: thanks for your comments.

    Thanks, Dilip, for the link to your report on the meeting addressed by the nuns.