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Millennium Post

Tibet in their hearts

Tibet in their hearts
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When you are born in a place you’d rather you weren’t, what can you do? Despite having been born here, living here for so many years, I know India is not my country. I studied in a refugee school in Ladakh. I have grown up listening to tales of Tibetan culture, the people, their struggle and how they are being oppressed. One gets automatically attached to their homeland.

I don’t know why I feel more Tibetan than Indian. Most of the Tibetans hold a registration certificate and not a proper identity proof. We are foreigners residing in India for a long time. We feel this is not really our land,’ said Tenzin Tselha, Grassroots Director of the youth-based organisation, Students for Free Tibet.

Being a grassroots director, Tselha has travelled to many parts of the country. Narrating her experience, she said, ‘The association with Tibet and the movement differs from individual to individual. But, whenever we organise a film screening, signature campaign or a protest, young Tibetans do take time out to contribute to the movement. Also, the young Indians, who sympathise with our cause and understand our struggle, support us too.’

If one peeps into history, the status of Tibet has been a debatable issue, both amongst its opponents and supporters. Before 1950, the supporters of independent Tibet say the region was self-governing in the period between the fall of the Mongol Empire in 1368 and subjugation by the Qing Dynasty in 1720. Yet, opponents assert Tibet has been part of Chinese history since 7th century and Tibetan empire had close interactions with Chinese dynasties through royal marriages. In the current scenario, there is also a division between Tibetans who want a Free Tibet and others who have adopted the ‘middle-way approach’ as suggested by the 14th Dalai Lama. According to the proposed middle-way approach, it demands autonomy for all Tibetans living in the provinces of Tibet within the framework of the People’s Republic of China.

‘These days most of the youth prefer the middle way approach. The internal affairs managed by Tibetan government while external can be handled by Chinese government,’ said Tsetan Norbu, Delhi Secretary of Tibetan Youth Congress. When questioned about youngsters’ attitude towards the movement, he said ‘People are busy in their lives but youngsters do have a national rhythm. Nowadays, demonstrations are only held peacefully. It appears young people have quietened down much. They seek other things.’

Whether peaceful demonstrations or roaring protests, Tibetans, young and old, always ask and demand their identity. ‘Lack of identity is a major problem faced by us. It’s been more than 50 years, but whatever we do, we still have to show a proper identity card. And, as individuals also, we want to belong to a particular place. Whether it’s business, studying in colleges, applying for visas, we don’t have an identity. After five decades, we are still refugees,’ said Norbu, reflecting upon the identity crisis faced by Tibetans in India.

‘Our land, our culture is the essence of our Tibetan identity. We might be living in India, or in some other part of the world, but we still don’t have any national identity. Hence, we yearn for Tibet. Whether we are in India or some other country, we share the same emotions. We want a Free Tibet and wish to go and live there,’ said Tashi, a cheerful young Tibetan. Yet what about the fact that opportunities are aplenty here and doesn’t that compensate for the lack of identity?  ‘In China, we are not allowed to practice our culture, carry out our traditions, speak in our language. At least here, we can form groups, raise our vioces, talk in our language , get education facilities and all,’ added Tashi. But it’s still exile, and though there’s a better life here, they are ready to leave it all and go to their home.

‘I do agree I have better education, health and other facilities here. I have more options and better career opportunities. I can have a good future here. I am also aware that if Tibet becomes free, the nation will take time to develop. We, as a nation will have problems initially. Despite knowing all that, I want to go back to Tibet. Every Tibetan wants to go back,’ said Karma Dolma, a student of Daulat Ram College, Delhi University. Karma was born and brought up in Sikkim. The movement which is still gathering momentum may not indicate when millions of Tibetans will see their dream being fulfilled, but it surely reflects the struggle of every Tibetan.

A Tibetan writer- activist Tenzin Tsundue in his poem wrote, ‘I am Tibetan. But I am not from Tibet. Never been there. Yet I dream of dying there.’
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