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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."

'It's like hurling bodies against bullets'

August 4, 2008

By Vijay Crishna
Newindpress (India)
August 3, 2008

In August last year, I was in Nakchu, 500 km north of Lhasa, for the
Horse Festival, which is the most important folk festival in Tibet.
To my horror I discovered that the horse festival, which is about
Tibetan horsemen displaying their prowess in archery, horsemanship
and racing, turned out to be a run-up to the Olympic Games. So, in
this huge field, the Chinese army did a march past, which was
followed by folk dances, much like the Republic Day parade in India.

Suddenly, near the end of the parade, some monks from a nearby
monastery were brought in carrying the Chinese flag. The crowd turned
silent. Later, I was told that the local Chinese cadres of the
Communist Party of China had decided to celebrate the festival in
their own way and used this crude method of imposing the country's
domination by forcing the monks to carry the flag.

What I have noticed on my visits to Tibet is the deep resentment
against the Chinese. You could feel it everywhere. People are scared
to show it, because Chinese security personnel are all over the
place. They are all in plainclothes and have infiltrated the
monasteries. Most of the monasteries have a Chinese person in charge.
Among the monks, there are some Chinese. That is why it was so
amazing the riots took place in March.

The unrest spread rapidly, as a result of the use of mobile phones.
When I was in Tibet last year, I had been amused at the way the monks
were carrying two or three mobile phones. However, now I realise that
these mobile phones were used as a potent tool to marshal the protests.

I am amazed at the Tibetan people. They have no weapons. Yet they
continue to protest. It is like hurling bodies against bullets. As
far as the Chinese are concerned, it is an internal matter of their
country. Six million Chinese have been re-settled in Tibet. Very
soon, there will be no Tibetan way of life.

Tibet is an extraordinarily beautiful place. The air is very clear
and you rarely see such natural beauty: the vast expanses, the
mountain ranges, the lakes, and the skies.

However, the people are very poor. There is nothing more
disconcerting than to suddenly come across children wearing ragged
clothing, and families living in pathetic conditions. Over the last
50 years, out of a population of six million people, more than a
million Tibetans have been killed. This is similar to the Holocaust,
but nobody knows about it.

The Tibetans also endured a massacre similar to Jalianwala Bagh, when
in 1904 Sir Francis Younghusband led an army into Tibet.

At a place called Guru, the British asked the Tibetans to lay down
their muskets, but the latter resisted. The British opened fire with
their Maxim machine guns. Around 700 people were shot dead in 20
minutes. The Tibetans do not have anybody to highlight their history
and, sadly, there is no nothing to mark this horrific tragedy.

The question I am asked often is whether Tibetans should resort to
violence. This is a complex question and there are no easy answers.
The Dalai Lama, an incredible man whom I have met, has stuck to the
concept of non-violence, at what must be at huge personal cost. Even
when riots were taking place, he stuck to what he believes. China
should now talk with him about the future of Tibet.

At this moment, the future looks bleak. However, there are game
changers along the way. There are huge forces building up in China,
born out of frustration at the terrible degradation of the
environment and the quality of life. People are angry and might
revolt. Democracy might eventually come to China. There may be a sea
change in the attitude of those who rule Tibet.

(As told to Shevlin Sebastian) Vijay Crishna has practised theatre
for many years and is a keen trekker. He has made several trips to
China. Recently, in Kochi, he made an audio-visual presentation,
Tibet Of Our Minds: A Journey's End? organised by Friends of Tibet.
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