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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibet's 'Sound of Music' nun scripts a sequel

September 24, 2010

Sify News (India)
September 21, 2010

Kathmandu, Sep 21 (IANS) -- A brave and moving
story of loyalty and unquenchable spirit that
began in Tibet nearly two decades ago has now got
a sequel with one of its 14 heroines succeeding
in escaping to India after an aborted earlier bid.

Palden Choedron, a 37-year-old Tibetan nun,
became famous as one of the 14 'Singing Nuns' who
defied prison and torture to smuggle out tapes
containing songs in praise of their country and
its exiled leader, the Dalai Lama.

Imprisoned twice, she has finally been able to
escape from Tibet and reach Dharamsala in
northern India's Himachal Pradesh this month, New
York-based International Campaign for Tibet said in a statement.

Choedron, who became a nun at 14, joined a
peaceful protest against Chinese excesses in
1990, for which she was sent to the notorious
Drapchi prison in Tibet for three years. Dozens
of other nuns were also imprisoned following the
imposition of martial law and a harsh crackdown
on peaceful demonstrations, which continues even today.

In 1993, when Choedron's sentence was to end, she
joined the 13 other nuns in what is known as the
'Sound of Music' saga of Tibet. The jailed nuns
recorded songs in their prison cells, praising
the Dalai Lama and Tibet to show that their spirit had not been broken.

After the tapes were smuggled out and gained wide
publicity outside Tibet, the nuns were tortured
severely, resulting in the death of one of them, Ngawang Lochoe, in prison.

Choedron's sentence was extended by five more
years. Though released in 1998, she could not
return to her nunnery for fear of reprisals.

Four months later, she tried to escape from Tibet
to reach Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama.
However, she was caught and again sent to prison for three more years.

In March 2006, the last of the singing nuns had
finally been released from prison after campaigns
by human rights organisations. However, they were
forced to lead a life under constant observation
and were unable to return to their old ways of life.

Two of the nuns were allowed to go into exile in
the US after intense behind-the-scene diplomatic lobbying.

In May 2006, two more of the released nuns -
Rigzin Choekyi, who served 12 years in prison,
and Lhundrub Zangmo, who served nine years -
arrived in Dharamsala after escaping from Tibet through Nepal.

* Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in
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