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OPINION: What I want from my Kalon Tripa candidate

February 1, 2011

By Email[Wednesday, January 26, 2011 09:54]
By Tashi Phuntsok

This Kalon Tripa election has raised our democratic process to the
different level. The cyber campaigns and live debates have generated
unprecedented responses from the Tibetan exiled population around the
globe. Supporters of the candidates appear to be even more charged than
the candidates themselves, attacking and counter-attacking opposition
candidates and then accusing each other of mudslinging.

In the midst of this, we seem to forget what we want from our candidate
if he becomes the next Kalon Tripa. We are not just electing a Prime
Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile; we are electing a leader
who should be able to lead the Tibetan masses in the process of the
Tibetan freedom movement.

I was unable to attend the debate hosted in New York City, but did
manage to watch it online. There were few questions I intended to ask
the candidates if I had been able to attend. Then I realized considering
the time limit I might not have been able to ask more than one question.
During the debate all three candidates pledged to uphold the His
Holiness' Middle Way Policy without providing any explanation what they
would do to help His Holiness to win ground for the Middle Way.

In spite of the spectacular campaign display, the candidate's rhetoric
sounded familiar, with no new ideas or fervor to answer some of the
fundamental questions that we face at this point of our freedom
struggle. Our struggle is not just a struggle for religious and
political freedom. Our struggle is one for the survival of the Tibetan
race. China's shrewd ethnic cleansing policy of promoting a massive Han
population transfer into Tibet in their attempt to turn the Tibetans
into an insignificant minority in their own country and eliminating the
original Tibetan names of places in Tibet is more dangerous than denying
political and religious freedom. If the Han migration to Tibet continues
at the present rate, it won't be too long before our struggle from exile
will become meaningless. The closest comparison in history that I can
think of is the struggle of the indigenous people of the two American
continents. The world knows what happened to them. None of the
candidates, however, have mentioned this issue as an agenda in their
manifestoes. I wanted to ask the candidates how we can stop or at least
slow down this systematic, massive population transport in Tibet.

It's evident that our campaign against China during the past five
decades has not been effective; the Middle-Way policy has failed to
counter China's relentless repression inside Tibet, nine years of
dialogue with China has brought us nowhere, and despite all our efforts
we have been unable to muster a single country in the world to recognize
Tibet as an occupied country or the Tibetan Government in Exile as a
legitimate government representing the Tibetan people. We held meetings
and passed resolutions, but failed to come up with effective action
plans involving the Tibetan masses either inside Tibet or in exile to
resist the Chinese occupation. Successful freedom movements in history
were those that involved the masses. Gandhiji could not have overthrown
the British and Dr. Martin Luther King could not have succeeded in the
Civil Rights Movement in America without mobilizing the masses behind them.

In my humble opinion, the Tibetan Government in Exile has failed to
engage the Tibetan masses in the freedom struggle process, but instead
often becomes a stumbling block to the Tibetan Youth Congress' effort to
turn the Tibetan freedom movement into a mass movement. Our kalons act
like leaders of a free nation, giving speeches and sending deputations
with little or no direct interaction with the Tibetan masses. When was
the last time any kalon participated with the Tibetan people in Tibetan
Uprising demonstrations? Have you ever heard of any one kalon who was
incarcerated in an Indian jail for participating in the demonstration
against China? Nelson Mandela reminded us in his autobiography that the
freedom struggle was not merely a question of making speeches, holding
meetings, passing resolutions, and sending deputations, but of
meticulous organization, militant mass action, and above all a
willingness to suffer and sacrifice. I wanted to ask the candidates if
they are willing to lead us in the peaceful demonstration on the 10
March uprising day next year.

Our non-violent method in some ways varies from what Gandhiji had
preached and practiced, even though we claim we follow his path. The
incumbent Kalon Tripa, Samdong Rinpoche, did not approve the hunger
strikes unto death organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress, because it
was equivalent of taking your own lives and that was against the
Buddhist tenet. Gandhiji undertook hunger strikes unto death for the
freedom of India; he believed the hunger strike was an effective weapon
for non-violent resistance against tyranny. I wanted to ask the
candidates if they are willing to use hunger strikes as a political tool
to protest against China's repression in Tibet or at least endorse the
hunger strikes organized by the Tibetan masses.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the president of the Indian National Congress,
once declared that the non-violent method adopted by the Indian National
Congress to fight against the British was a policy, not a creed. He
said, "Our decision to fight non-violently was compelled by
circumstances. It was not a matter of creed for me and for many other
Indians." He further asserted that the Indian National Congress was not
a pacifist organization but an instrument for achieving India's freedom.
I wanted to ask the candidates if they consider the non-violent approach
we have adopted to fight against China a policy, or a creed. Policy can
be changed if circumstances demand, but not a creed.

The author is Dean of School at the Woodhall School, a small independent
school in Bethlehem, CT. He can be contacted at pytash@sbcglobal.net
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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