Friday, January 29, 2010

The undying flame of Tibetan struggle

Tenzin Lekshay
Atharva, Volume V, No. 5, May 1 2009

Ever since the brutal occupation of Tibet in 1959, Communist China dictates Tibet under tyranny followed by death of more than a million Tibetans and destroyed almost all sacred monasteries and learning centers which had its root in India. The sagas and the prefect legacy of great Indian masters preserved well in Tibet for centuries were reliantly subjected to the formidable forces of atheist Chinese forces. Thus, leaving Tibet a barren field of humiliation, chaos and of course an irreversible vacuum in terms of age-old culture. Tibet, the land of god or 'Dev Bhumi', as some mystically calls 'Shangrila', ceased to exist with ruins of monasteries. Since then Tibet cries!!

The Dalai Lama, the supreme and the benevolent leader of Tibet had no choice other than seeking refuge in India amid frightening circumstances of uneasiness between the Chinese aggressors and the Tibetan Government. He was then, followed by 80 thousand Tibetans settling in India, Nepal and Bhutan. As a Buddhist, we seek refuge of three precious jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha). But after coming into India, we sought yet another kind of refugee, that is refuge for survival. Survival of race and identity are our prime concerns and the Indian government was generous enough to shelter the Tibetans into the sea of millions of Indians and assisted us with a humble humanitarian support.

Yet, millions of Tibetans in Tibet are still forced to languish silently and intolerably under the gruesome fear of Chinese repression. Fear unto the survival of race is imminent with a vigorous implementation of various national policies targeting Tibet as its foreground to capsulate their oversized ambition of modern day colonization. Under the helmsman of Chairman Moa Tsetung, China rises from a decaying dust of Middle Kingdom to an opportunist master who declared supremacy of Han nationality. The bloody movement resurrected the Chinese people to march into Tibet even after the Long March was long halted within China. The march without the consensus of Tibetan people had been widely criticized by the Tibetans who were staggered with many battles and rebellions. Initial persuasion of gradualism intended by Mao was shunned instantaneously with the disagreement of Tibetan masses and the Tibetan Government. In May 23, 1951, after the defeat of Tibetan army in Chamdo, the eastern fortress of the Tibetan government, Ngapo Jigme, the governor and the Tibetan delegation were forced to sign the infamous 17 Point Agreement with the Chinese invaders. With an intention of annexing Tibet, China sent thousands of People's Liberation Army into Tibet though the Tibetan leaders complained of maintaining a small contingent of armies. The large influx of Chinese armies within a short span of time had adversely affected the Tibetan economy with severe inflation. The normal equilibrium of Tibetan economy was acutely crippled with high demand of food supplies, which ultimately led to disastrous famine all over Tibet, accounted first in Tibetan history. Since then Tibet cries!!

For the past 60 years, China’s iron curtain over Tibet has been outrageously promoted first as a liberation of Tibetans from the so-called ‘evil rooted feudalistic rule’ and later focused on liberalization of economic development. But neither of them had helped Tibetans better than the Chinese themselves. The very purpose of occupying Tibet was to accomplish their three main goals of accommodating out numbered Chinese people, exploitation of abundant resources and ambitious territorial expansion. When whole world witnessed the post colonization era of attaining independence, Tibet looses its freedom, in spite of rigorous international lobbies. In 1956, when His Holiness visited India for the commemoration of 2,500th Death anniversary of Lord Buddha, met with Prime Minister Nehru to discuss the future status of Tibet. China’s Chou en Lie flew directly from China to pursue the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet with an assurance that Tibet be under normalcy. However, China had not stopped pushing their aggressive campaigns inside Tibet even after His Holiness’ return to Lhasa, thus leading more chaos and upheavals. In 1959, Tibetan people’s uprising against the Chinese oppression broke out and the Dalai Lama was forced to leave Tibet into exile.

During those days, India was a newly established state longing for prosperity and development. Rapid industrial transformation with an adoption of Soviet styled Five-year plans was the prime concern of the Indian leaders. Tibet issue though critical to India’s security was least bothered as India was entangled in her own politico-social problems, which were disturbing. Jawaharlal Nehru and K. M. Panikkar influenced India’s Tibet policy that the British India had followed, recognizing China’s suzerainty over Tibet but not sovereignty over Tibet and had assured of recognition to all the past treaties signed upon by Tibetan and British India. After India gained her independence in 1947, Tibetan delegation was invited for the Asian Relations Conference held in Delhi, despite Kuomintang protest. Jawaharlal Nehru also condemned the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950 and asserted strongly that ‘the last voice in regard to Tibet should be the voice of the people of Tibet and of nobody else’.

For centuries, Tibet as a Buddhist State engaged and emerged predominantly on religo-political doctrine based on friendly neighborhood by regarding India as a Guru and China as a Patron. Guru-Shishya (master and disciple) relationships between India and Tibet went back to 7th centuries since the time Buddhism flourished in Tibet. Subsequent exchange of scholars took place between India and Tibet. Many great Indian masters were invited by Tibetan kings such as Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava, abbots of the great Nalanda University like Shantirakshita and Atisha, Kamalasila and many others. Many Tibetan scholars also visited India in seeking full knowledge of Buddhism like Marpa and Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo.

Priest-Patron Relationship between Tibet and China came lately and was reestablished in 1639 by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama with the Manchu Emperor, who conquest China and established Qing Dynasty. Prior to that, Tibetans have Priest-Patron (Choyon) Relationship with Mongol Kings in 13th Century. China presently claims that Tibet was a part of China since 13th Century as Mongol Dynasty conquered and ruled China. However, King Godan Khan of Mongol had given temporal authority over Tibet to the preeminent Sakyapa Lama and later in 1260, Kublia Khan conferred Chogyal Phagpa a secular authority of Tibet before he took control of China, founding Mongol Yuan Dynasty in 1279. These historical facts rejected China’s claim of Tibet since 13th Century.

However, in a modern geopolitical spectrum, Tibet was sandwiched between two Asian giants namely India and China, It played a vital role in maintaining the balance of power and remained as a buffer state. But after the illegal occupation of Tibet, territorial outreach of China towards west expends far towards Central Asia. Even the Sino-Pakistan relationship deepens onto cross border affinity, which ultimately sparks a huge disturbance in the Indo-Pakistan affairs.

Over the past 60 years, China poured millions of Mainland Chinese into Tibet, which threatens the very survival of Tibetan identity and cultures. China initially started sending thousands of armed personals into Tibet to secure its control over the borders. As of present, China maintains about 16 to 18 divisions of armies in Tibet, facing India in Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin in Kashmir. A minor disposition of troops is maintained in the central sector are to safeguard supply routes. In all, 240,000 men are lightly equipped mountain divisions, which are very vulnerable to use during the cross border conflicts with India. India accuses China of illegally occupying 43,180 square kilometers (16,672 square miles) of territory belonging to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, including 5,180 square kilometers (2,000 square miles) ceded to China by Pakistan. China militarized Tibet not only to contend India but also to expend further to merge the other peripheries into the Middle Kingdom. It is thus, a great cause of concerns for India as China continues to consider Tibet as a strategic point in terms of politics and military. The rapid militarization in Tibet also caused a colossal damage to the Tibet’s ecology as heavy industrial projects move into Tibet.

In 1984, 43 development projects were launched to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the TAR in 1985. Similarly in 1994, 62 development projects worth of US$29 billion were launched in connection with the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the TAR in 1995. Most of them were spent on heavy projects like hydropower, railways and roadways.

It is estimated that Golmud-Lhasa Railway budget was around 26.2bn Yuan (£1.8bn). Tibetan people in the diaspora saw the opening of Golmud-Lhasa Railway as a plot to invade Tibet for the second time. The Dalai Lama regarded the railway as a tool of “cultural genocide.” It has been reported that Golmud-Lhasa Railway has been used to transport nearly 6,000 Chinese to Lhasa daily and the number of returnees are significantly less than the numbers of those who arrived in Lhasa.

The construction of railway was mainly to serve a political need rather than the developmental needs of the Tibetan people. Jiang Zemin forthrightly acknowledged the political importance of the railway as it increases Chinese economic migration into Tibet, thus further diluting the Tibetan population. The TAR’s Communist Party Chief, Zhang Qingli, similarly remarked that the railway “presents a precious opportunity to ensure the country's lasting order and stability.” Clearly, the railway ultimately threatens Tibet's cultural survival. Moreover, it is not unreasonable to conclude that this is precisely the intent of the PRC authorities.

In 1987, when Deng Xiaoping visited United States, he stated, “Tibet cannot develop on its own... It should seek help from fraternal provinces and municipalities (in China)... We need to get large numbers of Han comrades in Tibet so that they can impart scientific and technological know-how, share their scientific management expertise, and help Tibet train scientific, technological, managerial personnel to speed up its economic development.” China has further claimed that economic development leads to an increase in employment opportunities for the Tibetans while also serving the policy of population transfers. The empirical evidence does not support these claims. For instance, as to the railway project itself, out of the 38,000 railway-related jobs open to workers, only few were given to Tibetans. In short, the arrival of Chinese immigrants have distorted the labor opportunities within the Tibetan economy, favoring Chinese settlers over Tibetans.

Tibet a “Western Treasure” has 126 different minerals with a significant share of the entire world’s reserves of Gold, Chromite, Copper, Borax and Iron. Tibet has 15,000 natural lakes and research figures show that rivers originating in Tibet sustain the lives of 47 percent of the world’s population and 85 percent of Asia’s total population. Tibet’s forests covered 25.2 million hectares and Tibet has two major oil deposits namely; Tsaidam Basin in Amdo (Qinghai) and Chang Thang.

Chinese government has predominantly engaged in exploiting and extracting the rich natural resources of Tibet, which consequently led to widespread environmental destruction. Excessive deforestation, uncontrolled mining, water pollution and nuclear waste dumping, has resulted in the degradation of grasslands, extinction of wildlife, desertification, floods, soil erosion and landslides. This irreversible damage is a cause of great concerns not only for the Tibetan people but also for the whole world.

Severe floods frequently occurred not only in Tibet but also in China, India and other Asian subcontinent countries due to the continual deforestations taking place at the source of the rivers. For instance, in summer 1998, the most devastating flooding of Yangtze River killed between 3,656 and 10,000 people and affecting the lives of l240 millions with 5.6 million homes destroyed. It also destroyed 4.8 million hectares of crops and 64 hectares of farmland in China.

China sees the Tibetan plateau as its largest forest zone. It has established some 70 state logging enterprises, which have cut a total of 120 million cubic meters of wood from the forest of eastern Tibet (Sichuan). It is reported that China succeeded in reducing Tibet's forest cover from 25.2 million hectares to 13.57 million hectares between 1950 and 1985.

Global warming is also causing Tibet's glaciers to melt faster than expected at a rate of 7 per cent annually, allegedly triggering droughts, expanding desertification and increasing sandstorms throughout the PRC. It will cause a huge impact on water supplies over much of Asia as many of the continent’s great rivers including the Yangtze, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong and the Yellow river originated on the plateau.

In order to resolve the Sino-Tibetan conflict, the Dalai Lama initially adopted ‘Middle Way Approach’ in 1979. Later, Tibetans in diaspora approved it through democratically engaged participations. In 1987, the Dalai Lama delivered his Five Point Peace plan at the Congressional Human Right Caucus at Washington DC. He asked for the earnest negotiation of the future status of Tibet in order to resolve the Chinese and Tibetan relations. The Dalai Lama later proposed a referendum in 1996 and 1997 that the Tibetan people should decide the best means to realize the cause of Tibet after he failed to get a favorable response for the Chinese government. A preliminary opinion poll was conducted in which more than 64% of the total opinion letters received expressed their support to the Middle-Way Approach, or whatever decisions the Dalai Lama takes in accordance with the changing political situation in China. To this effect, the Tibetan Parliament in Exile adopted a unanimous resolution on 18 September 1997 in favor of the Middle Way Approach.

The Chinese leadership is more concerned with the past history. It claim’s that Tibet is historically part of China. It claims that Tibet was a part of China prior to the “liberation” of Tibet in 1951. The invasion of Tibet is an ideological accusation where the communist claim that their revolution was based on anti-imperialism. The Chinese leaders are therefore paranoid about the slightest implication that Tibet was ever an independent state in the past. On the contrary, the Dalai Lama is primarily focused on the future prospects of preserving Tibetan culture, religion and Tibetan identity whereby Tibetan can live happily with the Chinese. Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, emphasized that Middle Way approach represents the Dalai Lama’s commitment to look to the future, instead of the past, to find a solution that will provide maximum autonomy for the Tibetan people and bring peace and stability to the PRC and the entire region.

After several rounds of talks in the 1980s, the formal dialogue ceased in 1993 due to the lack of political will on the part of Chinese leaders. The Dalai Lama persisted in engaging a dialogue. The Dalai Lama tried to seek an informal channel of communication with the Chinese officials and thereafter succeeded in holding three rounds of meetings. But in 1998, all the communication came to an end. Repressive policies in Tibet soon followed. However, in 2002 meetings with the Chinese officials concerning the Tibet policy resumed and since then, the Tibetan delegation has been able to visit various places in Tibet and China.

Significant ideological differences lies between the TGiE and the Chinese Government in its demand for democratic reforms in the future Tibet. Another hindrance to negotiation is the reunification of the areas covering the Tibetan populace, which include those places in Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu. Hu Yoabang once told Gyalo Thondup, elder brother of the Dalai Lama in 1981 that “this is a new idea which needs to be considered.” Ulan Fu, the founder of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in China also supported the Tibetan demand, which he recalled that the late Zhou Enlai assured the Tibetan delegates to the 17 Point Agreement in 1951 that the question of reunification of inner and outer Tibet would be separately looked into. The Chinese Constitution and National Autonomy Law provided such eligibility to form a separate political entity within the same minority group.

In 2008, three rounds of talks between the exile emissary and the Chinese leaders were held in China amidst large-scale demonstrations and protests in Tibet. More than 200 Tibetans were killed by the Chinese armed forces and thousands were arrested as estimated by the exile Tibetan government, though China claims only of 22 death. The resentment and frustrations among the Tibetans are running high against the regime as Tibet was virtually put under Martial Law. The Political re-education campaign was re-enforced in the Tibetan monasteries under strict surveillances. Tibet once again became ‘Hell on Earth’ as hardliners imposed stringent rules in control of Tibet by widely criticizing the Dalai Lama for inciting the demonstrations. However, the Dalai Lama continues to promulgate peace and nonviolence in resolving Tibetan issues.

Though for the past 50 years, the Chinese repressive rules over Tibet succeeded under the barrel of guns, the determination of Tibetans to free Tibet from the cling of tyranny is certain as world pressures are mounting on China.


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