Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Another self-immolation, another martyr!

By Tenzin Nyinjey

There were red and crimson robed monks and nuns. There were lay Tibetans – both young and old. There were Americans, Australians and Germans. There were Japanese, including a young teenage girl whose entire family died in the recent flood that devastated her country.

There were members of Tibetan parliament, civil servants of the Central Tibetan Administration and activists from Tibetan Women’s Association. There were members of Tibetan Youth Congress in their trademark green and yellow striped sports jackets. And there were activists from the Students for Free Tibet.

All these people coming from a diverse background of nationalities and professions gathered last night at the main square in Mcleod Ganj. They were bound by a common ideal – to participate in a candle light vigil, to pay tribute to the two Tibetan monks who immolated themselves yesterday in protest against China’s ongoing siege of the Kirti monastery. One of the two monks, Lobsang Kalsang, died!

Around a thousand Tibetans and Tibetan supporters participated in the candle light vigil organized jointly by the regional Tibetan Youth Congress and Tibetan Women’s Association.

Tenzin Tsundue led the procession. He held a large portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrapped in traditional Tibetan scarves – a powerful reassertion of Tibetan identity and freedom. The rest of the participants, some of whom carried Tibetan and Indian national flags, held candles in their hands, chanting a Buddhist prayer invoking compassion in the hearts of the Chinese autocrats!

Some of the inji tourists, aroused by their curiosity, started asking questions. A young monk immediately attended them. I could overhear their conversations, as the articulate monk started speaking in English, giving them information about China’s military occupation of Tibet and the recent spate of non-violent protests, including a series of self-immolations carried out by monks in eastern Tibet.

As I started walking with the activists I could feel the warmth that exuded from the burning candles and crowd of people marching close to each other in the narrow streets of Mcleod Ganj. It was difficult to resist the deep human connection!

The sea of marching lights walking down the Mcloed Ganj road was a powerful experience to all of us. It overcame the damp, foggy and depressing autumn of Dharamsala. Bikers and taxi drivers stopped honking their rolling machines– they made their way for the procession to march peacefully. A monk in a taxi hid his face in his robes, embarrassed that he could not join the vigil.

It was encouraging to see that despite all the cynicism and apathy that reigns among us, our conscience is as strong as ever. We simply need a bit of imagination!

The candle light procession finally ended at the martyr’s square located within the compound of Tsuklakhang. The leaders of the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Tibetan Women Association gave their speeches, condemning China’s violent crackdown on Kirti monastery and its illegal occupation of Tibet. The need to restore our long cherished dream to free Tibet was emphasized.

A two-minute silence was observed to mourn the two self-immolating monks. It was followed by the recitation of ‘words of truth,’ a prayer composed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In the midst of all this prayer and mourning, the lights on the candles placed around the martyr square flickered in the air, sending out a trail of smoke that enveloped all of us.

It was a fitting tribute to the two brave Tibetan patriots!

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