TOPICS: Tibet turmoil and Nepal

Tibet has witnessed a great deal of social and economic development since the fleeing of Dalai Lama to India and the beginning of active Chinese rule. For despite the fascination and mysticism that Tibet created in the Western world, a handful of feudal lords connected to the Potala palace held control over much of its lands and property. Tibet’s feudal landlords held large numbers of serfs. The political power was held by a few aristocrats and monks in the name of Dalai Lama. In modern times, the country was invaded by many nations including Nepal in 1790-91 and 1856, and on each occasion the Chinese emperor sent the Red army to repel them and protect Tibet. These images from Tibet’s past aren’t glorifying.

With the help of Beijing, the once forbidden kingdom is now linked with highways, rail-roads and airways and with the outside world. Universities in Lhasa and Shigatse churn out Tibetan doctors, professors, scientists and engineers. The reach of local radio and TV is all over Tibet. Tibetans dress ‘smart’, live longer and eat better. Efforts are underway to rebuild monasteries destroyed by red guards during the cultural revolution. The monasteries are teeming with monks who seem to enjoy some degree of freedom to practice their faith, albeit in controlled numbers, Tibetans are allowed to travel outside Tibet (to Nepal). Nepali media persons who visited Tibet seem impressed with the development there. Even the journalists of reputed national dailies do not tire of showering praises for this.

Then how come all of a sudden we are witnessing random outbursts of rage by Tibetans who have mustered incredible courage to go against the People’s Republic rule? Two hundred forty people were killed, including some Han Chinese targeted by protestors gone berserk.

It seems that no matter how much money is poured into Tibet for its physical development, Tibetans will continue to see the Chinese authorities as invaders till the Dalai Lama’s demand of full autonomy is guaranteed. Tibetans are deeply spiritual and revere the Dalai Lama. Further attempts by Chinese authorities to curb their spiritual practices and slandering of the Dalai Lama can only bring negative effects. It is notable that despite intense disagreements in the Tibetan community, the Dalai Lama has agreed to share sovereignty with China. Judging by the intensity of recent uprisings in Tibet and the support it has received worldwide, it is clear that the Tibetans will not let up and it is up to China to start negotiations with the Dalai Lama for an early settlement of this issue.

Nepal too has become entangled in the Tibet issue. It should be clear to all that due to its own compulsions Nepal is in no position either to support or oppose this issue. I hope China, the Tibetan community in Nepal and the international agencies concerned will respect this sensibility of Nepal and not draw it further into this vortex. Unfortunately, for the moment, playing hardball seems to be the only solution. But all the sides should be able to see the larger perspective.