Tibetan exiles to mark 50 years with protests

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Dharamsala : It has always been an important day in the lives of millions of Tibetans across the world – March 10. But this year it’s more significant, marking the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising by Tibetans when their territory was taken over by Chinese forces.

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The exiled Tibetan community has lined up a series of activities and protests through 2009-10 to commemorate the time when they were pushed out of the ‘Roof of the world – Tibet’.

“March 10 is a sacred day for Tibetans. This time it is important because it is also the 50th anniversary of our uprising. It is of significance to Tibetans throughout the world,” Karma Yeshi, a member of Tibet’s parliament in exile, told IANS.

“While thousands of Tibetans are living in exile, millions of others are suffering inside Tibet under Chinese rule.”

The occasion this year also marks 50 years since the arrival of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual and temporal head, the Dalai Lama, and thousands of Tibetans who took asylum in India in 1959.

“China wants to see history of Tibet from its perspective. They don’t understand that giving meaningful autonomy to Tibetans could solve the problem. We are not seeking independence from China,” the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, 73, recently told a group of visitors during an informal meeting.

The Dalai Lama, a title which means ‘Ocean of Wisdom’, won the Nobel peace prize in 1989 for his dedicated non-violent struggle for Tibet.

As the date nears, there is apparent anxiety brewing among the exiled Tibetans about what will happen inside Tibet this year. The mood is the fallout of last year’s violence inside Tibet when Tibetans started a rebellion against Chinese occupation just five months ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

“The situation inside Tibet is quite tense. The Chinese authorities have made Tibet out of bounds for all visitors. Security is the tightest possible ever,” Sonam Dagpo, the Tibetan government-in-exile’s secretary for international relations, told IANS.

The activities lined up by the exiled Tibetan community in Mcleodganj near here – the abode of the Dalai Lama and his followers for the last few decades – include long life prayers for him March 9.

This will be preceded by an important meeting of top lamas from all the prominent Tibetan sects and religious schools from March 6-8. The Dalai Lama himself is expected to address the conference of monks, to be attended by nearly 50 top lamas, including the 17th Karmapa Lama Ogyen Trinley Dorje, March 8.

On March 10, while the government-in-exile will hold functions to mark the anniversary, the Dalai Lama will make a statement to all Tibetans.

Tibetan NGOs like the pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress, Students for Free Tibet, Gu-Chu-Sum – a body of former Tibetan political prisoners – and others will hold protests here and other places in India and other countries to mark the occasion.

The exiled Tibetan community, numbering over 100,000 in India, will hold a special ‘Thank you India’ campaign in New Delhi March 31 to show their gratitude to India for hosting them and their religious heads for 50 years.

China has stepped up its rhetoric against the Dalai Lama, accusing him of promoting slavery prior to 1959.

While announcing March 28 as the ‘Serfs Emancipation Day’ and a permanent public holiday in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) under it, the Chinese authorities are claiming that the dissolution of the Tibetan government in 1959 and the escape of the Dalai Lama from Lhasa to India had freed 95 percent of slaves from the clutches of aristocracy headed by the Dalai Lama.

“China wants to whitewash its atrocities in Tibet after its occupation. They want to justify their subjugation of the Tibetans. His Holiness is the undisputed leader of the Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. Even last year’s uprising in Tibet made it clear that people wanted him to return to Tibet. No one can represent the Tibetans other than him,” Dagpo said.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])