Wednesday, January 30, 2019

In memory of our tallest supporter George Saab

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with George Fernandes in Dharamsala, HP, India on March 10, 2007. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Dharamshala, 29 January 2019: Today, Tibet has lost one of her dearest and most trusted friend George Fernandes, who remained the strongest voice of solidarity for the Tibetan cause. His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his condolence message expressed, “George was a great humanitarian and believer in truth. Throughout his life, his was a voice for the millions of poor and needy people of the country. He had a firm conviction in justice and wisdom. He was a real heroic leader.”1 In India, he was popularly known as a union leader of the masses, an ardent Lohia comrade, and a seasoned politician.

George’s initial relationship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama started when Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia requested him to teach some Tibetan youth (Lodi Gyari) about socialism. He first met His Holiness when the latter visited Parliament house to meet Dr. Lohia. In 1959, soon after His Holiness fled to India, he led a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Mumbai after they refused to take the memorandum.2

In 1967, he won the parliamentary election from south Bombay. In that year, when many prominent Indian leaders like Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Prof. ML Sondhi, Acharya Kripalani and Madhu Limaye rigorously debated in favour of a resolution in the Parliament on whether the Dalai Lama should be recognized as the Head of the émigré Government of Tibet and the Government of India to extend all facilities and help to liberate Tibet from the colonial rule of Communist China, George Fernandes raised up to say Ayes for the resolution. Since the house was divided with the motion, the resolution failed to passed.3

 “There are many who believe that it is now too late in the day to think about the freedom of Tibet. Such people belong to the category of those who have lost faith in themselves and have never understood the indomitable nature of the spirit of the human being. To them history is as static as the Himalayas appear to be, though over the ages, the Himalayas too have kept evolving and changing.” - George Fernandes, Keynote address delivered at the International Convention on Tibet and Peace in South Asia, New Delhi, 12-14 August, 1989  

On May 11, 1993 the All India Parliamentary Forum for Tibet (AIPFT) was formed with the involvement and cooperation of many Indian parliamentarians representing all major political parities in India. George saab was then the first chairman of AIPFT, instrumental in forming the forum.  Under his chairmanship, he organized the first World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet in Delhi from 18-20 March 1994. Many parliamentarians from 25 countries gathered to discuss the Tibet issue, which George stressed, “it is for the first time that we succeeded in taking the Tibetan issue into a large number of parliaments in the world” and called the New Delhi convention as “qualitatively different” from the earlier conventions on Tibet.4 The forum adopted the Delhi Resolution which was based on the Ten Commandments or suggestion for actions in support of the Tibetan people.5 George, then the member of Indian parliament was vocal in condemning China when the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wu Jianmin commented with the hope that india would be careful in future in handling Tibet political activities on its soil. In response, he made a statement that New Delhi should tell Beijing, “even if it is a lesson that China’s present day leaders, with their Tiananmen Square record, may not be able to understand”.6

In 1995, he attended the Second World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet in Vilnius, Lithuania. During the deliberations, he said that it is eminent to hold the next conference in a country which can play the most significant role, next to India. It is in his firm believe that India has to play the most significant role in the ultimate fight, which George saab stressed “fight in all its ramifications to see that Tibet achieves independence.”7

During the Third World Parliamentarians Convention for Tibet, which was held in Washington D.C in 1997, George saab iterated that India and China must talk to each other taking into consideration of the the geopolitical importance of Tibet. He argued that without Tibet as a central theme, the talks will be meaningless.8

In 1998, when George Fernandes was the defence minister of India, he openly declared China as the potential threat No. 1 of India, which suddenly raised eyebrows of all strategic pundits who were silently observing the Sino-Indian relations. In 2003, he visited China which again drew lots of media attentions. However, Bhartendu Kumar Singh wrote a piece that summed up the personality of George saab, “George Fernandes, the Defence Minister, who is pragmatic about the prospects of Sino-Indian relations, is only articulating the official viewpoint. In private, he still remains the same ‘old’ George, who continues to support the Tibetans, reveres the Dalai Lama and carries on the PSP’s perception of China as a strategic threat. George, as an individual, would still like to stand by his 1998 description of China as a potential enemy no.1.”8

In 2007, George attended the 48th commemoration of Tibetan National Uprising Day at the courtyard of Tsuglakhang in Dharamshala where he said that the struggle must continue until the full resolution of Tibet issue. He asserted that he shall remain an optimist on the Tibet issue.

In 2008, when a nationwide uprising happened in Tibet, George saab was vocal enough to call for a boycott of torch relay in India. He said that “the Olympic torch should not be allowed to come to India and that he had asked his 'colleagues' and others to make 'whatever effort' to prevent the flame's run in India.” On his 77th birthday, His Holiness attended George Abhinandane hosted by his friends in Bangalore. As a response to that felicitation, he read "The presence of Dalai Lama and others will bring more strength to go with struggle for the causes of poor and downtrodden,"9

In 2009, George Fernandes visited Dharamshala and attended the Thank you India program hosted by the Tibetan NGOs. He told the Tibet Post, ‘these refugees have human rights in India, shouting, demonstrating, and protesting are all within their rights.  Never should a Tibetan be arrested in India for exercising his personal freedoms.”10

Today, at this sad moment of his demise, Tibet has lost her trusted friend, who had consistently worked for Tibet for decades whether he be in the government or outside. Likewise, Burmese too will grief the loss of their dear friend. I vividly remember those days when we used to visit him at his MP residence during the long relay of protests in 2008. Though he was physically weak, we were empowered by his presence and his larger than life conviction.

We bid farewell to George saab, and shall cherish and remember his goodwill and legacy forever.

Reference:
1.    Condolences on the Death of George Fernandes, https://www.dalailama.com/news/2019/condolences-on-the-death-of-george-fernandes
2.    Faithful among the Faithful - Interview of George Fernandes in New Delhi by Claude Arpi, 05 June 2018 http://www.indiandefencereview.com/interviews/faithful-among-the-faithful-interview-of-george-fernandes-in-new-delhi/
3.    Indian Parliament on the issue of Tibet Lok Sabha (1952-2005), TPPRC, 2006 pp. 279
4.    Dalai Lama-China dialogue mooted, The Times of India, New Delhi Monday, March 21, 1994
5.    World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet, A Souvenir, pp. 12
6.    India clarifies position on met on Tibet, Deccan Herald, march 24, 1994
7.    Tibet: Saving A People from Annihilation Proceedings of the Second World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet, pp. 26
8.    George Fernandes and Sino-Indian Relations, by Bhartendu Kumar Singh, IPCS, 27 May 2003 http://www.ipcs.org/focusthemsel.php?articleNo=1044
9.    George Fernandes felted on his 77th birthday, 17 January 2008 https://www.oneindia.com/2008/01/17/george-fernandes-felted-on-his-77th-birthday-1200580434.html
10. Tibetan refugees have human rights in India: Indian former minister, George Fernandes, The Tibet Post, 07 July 2009 http://www.thetibetpost.com/en/news/exile/249-tibetan-refugees-have-human-rights-in-india-indian-former-minister-george-fernandes

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tribute to Dr. Nandkishore Trikha

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Dr. Nandkishore Trikha
When all across India jubilantly welcome the new season with  festivities of Makar Sankranti, Lohri, and Pongal, the news of untimely demise of Dr. Nandkishore Trikha, a longtime and trusted friend of Tibet has casted a shallow dark cloud of sadness that sunken me with heavy heart. It is such a great loss to the Tibetan people whom he dearly and passionated worked for Tibet till his last breathe. Dr. Saab as i usually called him  with respect, was a fatherly figure to me who was always ready to help and guide us with his unconditional love and the larger-than-life wisdom and his down-to-earth humility. 

My association with Mr. Trikha started in 2008, after I returned from a sabbatical leave, to work as the coordinator of the India-Tibet Coordination Office in Delhi.  My main job was to coordinate with the Indian supporters to organize and create awareness about Tibetan freedom movements in all parts of India. Interestingly, Indian support groups for Tibet are spread widely across India and are ideologically influenced by many great Indian leaders like Dr. Rammanohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan,  and Dr. Ambedkar. In order to have an effective campaign activities, the Core Group for Tibetan Cause was conceived during the First All India TSG conference in Chandigarh in September 2003. Dr. Trikha, was then appointed the first national convener of Core Group for Tibetan Cause, an apex body of Indian support groups for Tibet. On regular basis, I had frequent meetings and conversations with him either at his Press Enclave residence and  in my office. Whenever we approached his residence, his wife generously offered us with sweets and fruits. I am privileged of working with Dr. Trikha in hosting several International and national conferences of Tibet support groups, like the Special International Tibet Support Groups Conference in Gurgaon in 2008; 3rd All India Tibet Support Groups Conference in Delhi in 2009; 6th International Conference of Tibet Support Groups in Surajkund, Haryana in 2010; and the 4th All India Tibet Support Groups Conference in Dharamshala, 2012. The Core Group for Tibetan Cause, and certainly under his leadership, many seminars on Tibet was held in Delhi over the years. 

Lately, Dr. saab was diagnosed with cancer and routinely visited hospital for regular medical checkup. Recently, when the Department of Information and International Relations of Central Tibetan Administration hold the historic 5-50 summit, Dr. saab’s name was written as a confirmed participant and I casually informed the organizer that Dr. Saab may not attend due to his chronic illness. But I was amazed by his tireless commitment for Tibet that he attended the three days program without failing even a single session. When I saw him during the registration, I accompanied and escorted him to his allotted room and alerted the organizer to arrange an usher to assist Dr. Trikha whenever needed. In between, I inquired him of any necessities required. 

Last Friday, after returning from Bodhgaya, i had a day long transit in Delhi. I told my former colleague to make an appointment with Dr. Saab to visit him at his residence. It was on Saturday morning, i was told that Dr. Saab was admitted in AIIMS and was in ventilator. i was eager to meet, but hopelessly could not meet him. Now, I am shattered with the guilt of not meeting him during his last day.  

For years, Dr. Trikha supported us tirelessly and unconditionally, with the simple hope for justice and freedom of Tibet and dearly adored His Holiness the Dalai Lama with high respect. Tibet was so close to his heart that he dare not missed any events on Tibet, despite having  constant health issues. With the sudden and untimely demise, I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt condolences to his bereaving family members in this darkest moment of their life. More so, it gives me courage to work harder for the cause of Tibet that Dr. Trikha dearly and wholeheartedly worked for the freedom of Tibet. Rest in Peace Dr. Saab. We will dearly miss you and shall keep you in our prayers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

LHASA CONSENSUS: WILL IT MATTER?

The forum on the development of Tibet is held
in Lhasa on 12 August 2014. (Xinhua/Liu Kun)
By Tenzin Lekshay

Series of programs and activities are happening these days in Lhasa under the initiative of PRC government to present and promote Tibet as a sanctuary of Peace and Harmony. After the recently concluded "2014 Forum on the Development of Tibet, China," the Lhasa Consensus was adopted. PRC sympathizers like N. Ram and others were invited to speak in favour of PRC's policies inside Tibet, slammed His Holiness the Dalai Lama and espoused the Lhasa Consensus. For them, it was a usual business of patronizing PRC and a red carpet picnicking in Lhasa. China feels that they shove their propaganda to the new height by letting foreigners to judge what is happening inside Tibet. Is propaganda really necessary if China really works in favour of Tibet? Will this helps China to tighten their iron grip over Tibet? Will China open Tibet to all the foreigners and Medias?  And above all, who should really decide the fate of Tibet, PRC; Foreigners; and Tibetans? With such questions, the credibility of Lhasa Consensus needs to check whether they have done justice to Tibet or else merely fulfill the objectivity of Chinese propaganda.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Introspection on The Dalai Lama's 2009 Tawang Visit

PM Manmohan Singh's response to China on Dalai Lama's
visit: Only India will decide Hu and Wen can visit TAWANG..!
The Economic Times' Cartoon. By Salam
By Tenzin Lekshay

In 2003, India became jubilant when China agreed to not just remain mum over Sikkim but also went ahead in removing Sikkim as an 'independent nation' from their official website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The gesture, which Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee after returning from China justified by saying that he extracted concessions from Beijing on Sikkim without offering anything new on Tibet in exchange.

Even after more than 60 years of establishing diplomatic relationship, India and China faces unprecedented challenges on its Himalayan borders. There has been a contest on the recognition of the Line of Actual Control and considers whole stretch of Himalayan border as a disputed zone. Analysts say that China wants to keep the status quo over border issues, which would help in maintaining China's leverage over India in their chase for power politics. Therefore, it is evident to find ever increasing transgressions along the borders.