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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Now Tibet is not so far

May 16, 2008

Tenzin Tsundue
Phayul
May 14, 2008

Tenzin Tsundue. Photo taken on 19th April at Ghaziabad where the
marchers rested in a building which was under construction. (Photo by
Tenzin Dasel/Phayul.com)
When I packed my sleeping bag that early morning before sunrise for
this long journey, I placed a white (khatak) scarf at the alter of
His Holiness and said I have decided, whatever happens, I will make
my way through. Walking for almost 70 with 300 people covering more
than 900 kilometers through Himachal, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, UP, we
reached Almora town yesterday in the Kumaon Mountains in the north
Indian state of Uttrakhand. From here Tibet is not very far.

The March to Tibet began from Dharamsala on 10th March, the same day
similar uprisings happened all around the world, organized by
Tibetans and Tibet supporters, even in Tibet - a global Tibetan
uprising. We started with 100 core marchers, on our way many more
joined us. As we leave Almora tomorrow into the high mountain valleys
towards Tibet, we are 300 marchers and eight support marchers who are
foreigners from different countries, some of whom have been with us
from Dharamsala.

All along the route the Indian people have welcomed us with warmth,
cheered our spirit and in some places offered us water and shelter.
At most places we spent our nights in Ashrams, Gurudwaras and
schools, sometimes on empty grounds on the roadside, where the local
municipality provided water in tankers driven by tractors. Indians
have a culture of going for long journeys across their country for
pilgrimages and therefore hospitality is a natural custom. The police
have been sending an escort all along the route in jeeps or on
motorbikes passing the security duty from one district to the next.

A long line of Marchers snakes along Highway 87 on the way to the
next destination of Almora getting ever closer to the border. (Photo
courtesy: TPUM)
You must be aware that we were arrested by Indian police in Kangra
District on the 13th March and jailed us for 14 days. The second
batch of the March was launched three days later and that carried on
the March spirit. After our release, all 100 of us rejoined the
March, but there is already a court case slapped on us. At the end of
the last month, Choeying, Lobsang Yeshi and I had to appear in Dehra
court and will have to do that again in June.

I learned that some people had the impression from various media
reports that the March had been canceled. I myself received phone
calls from few people whose doubts I cleared. Seeing an imminent
confrontation at the border His Holiness did advise the organizers
against the continuation of the March, but after seeing the
courageous non-violent uprisings that happened all over Tibet and the
ongoing Chinese crackdown on our people in Tibet, our commitment was
revitalized by their sacrifice and inspired us. Now we can't stop it.
So we re-launched the March to Tibet from Delhi on the 19th April
after a temporary halt.

The journey from Delhi passing through UP was difficult; it was
extremely hot, dry and dusty. The trucks and buses on the highway
threatened to run over us sometimes rushing by our ears, and
sometimes stopping by to pick our campaign flyers that we were
handing out on the road. As we walked one after the other in a long
single file like the multiple legs of a millipede - one long body.
Even when the head has taken the next turn, the tail is still
trailing behind from the last corner.

Daughter helping her father tie on a Tibetan flag. (Photo courtesy: TPUM)
The Marchers wake up at 4 am, after washing and packing sleeping
bags, tents and mattresses, we have breakfast and start walking at 5
am. Usually walking for 6 to 7 hours a day we cover a distance of
20-25 kilometers, sometimes walking even 27 or 28 kilometers. The
logistics and kitchen team move ahead in trucks and set up the camp.
At many places water is luxury. We bathe under hand-pump water taps
on the roadsides; scores of monks bathe together sometimes in wheat
fields. It's a great experience answering nature's calls in open
fields under the moonlight with a jug of water by your side.

Most of the marchers are Buddhist monks from the three monastic
universities in south India; some old people who escaped from Tibet
along with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1959, the eldest one being
78. The youngest are two 17 year old boys, born and brought up in
India and have never seen Tibet. There are several young mothers who
left behind their family in the care of their husbands. Our
communication team tries to reach out to the outside world and also
arranges opportunities to talk to local media. During the evening
gatherings, after the daily prayer, the media coordinator tells the
news. Many times the Marchers applaud Tibet support actions taken in
different parts of India and abroad. The protest against the torch in
London, Paris, San Francisco, Canberra and Tokyo received huge
appreciation. The ongoing Tibetan protests in Kathmandu are highly
appreciated understanding Nepalese police brutality.

We are now starting the last leg of the March. From Almora to the
border is now barely 200 kilometers, and it will now be cold as we
ascend higher into the Himalayas. I know returning to a homeland that
is still under foreign occupation is not easy. Chinese military will
of course guard the border with machine guns, even Indian police will
find an excuse to stop us. Confrontation is inevitable, but we are
not stopping. We may even have to camp at the border for a long time,
might have to call for international support and participation. We
march into uncertainty.

The March to Tibet is a process for us to return to our homeland and
reclaim our right to be in our native land in freedom. Whatever
happens, we have deep commitment to non-violence; we will not
retaliate. We may be beaten, jailed or even shot at, but we are not
giving up. And for me there is no other plan in life other than this
March. For all of us marchers, this is our life commitment.

For daily updates and photos about the march and to read personal
stories of the Marchers please visit: www.TibetanUprising.org We have
a number of non-Tibetan support Marchers who have been walking with
us for a couple days or longer, and some right from the beginning. If
you are interested in joining please contact our coordinators: Sherab
Woeser sherabwoeser@yahoo.com (cell phone: 0091-9418394426) and
Lobsang Yeshi (cell phone: 0091-9410936742 /  9756969141). If you are
far away or can't join us, you can help spread the word. Donations of
sleeping bags, shoes and mattresses can be of great use. Your
financial contribution can help feed the Marchers and give water to
keep us going. I count for every Tibetan's contribution towards this movement.

Bod Gyalo! (Victory to Tibet!)
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