Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Inside Tibet: Through an adventurer's lens

August 28, 2008

Dipankar Chakraborty
The Statesman (India)
August 26, 2008

NEW DELHI, Aug. 26 -- The year was 2006. On board a Chinese railway
train from Xiling to Gormo in Quinghai province an Indian traveller
stood out in contrast to his Chinese co-passengers. At midnight,
while he was trying to get some sleep like the other passengers in
the coach, a Chinese police officer came up to him and asked him to
show his passport. He took it away and returned a good three hours
later much to the relief of the Indian passenger.

This was Vijay Kranti's closest shave with the law in the forbidden
land of Tibet and it was on his second visit there.

The photographer-journalist-Tibetologist and daredevil adventurer
recalled that the train journey from Xiling to Gorma that night could
have sounded the end of his zeal to know more about Tibetans. "I had
with me a Nikon camera and around 90 film rolls with tell-tale
evidence of blatant demographic colonialism being perpetrated by the
Chinese inside Tibet through a systematic disfiguring of all that has
to do with Tibet, its people, its culture and age-old traditions," he
told The Statesman on the sidelines of his photo exhibition, Inside
The Colony, held here recently.

Mr Kranti's first visit to Tibet took place a year after the Chinese
government in a bid to project its humane face in Tibet opened up the
region to tourists in 2002. "Before opening Tibet to international
tourism, China took care to ensure that visitors can't see anything
that China does not want them to see. It is like a murderer throwing
a party after cleaning up the murder site. Spotting meaningful frames
in such a situation is a great challenge to a professional
photo-journalist," Mr Kranti said.

It was his first assignment as a freelance journalist with Saptahik
Hindustan that first brought Mr Kranti in contact with the Tibetan
spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. "When I approached the Dalai Lama
for the first time in 1972 at his Dharamshala headquarters it was
with a kind of professional detachment, not out of any reverence or
any sense of spiritual allegiance. But when I met him I was greatly
impressed by him. He converted 80,000 Tibetan refugees in India into
one of the best organised refugee settlements," he said. The love and
bonding with the Dalai Lama and Tibet has continued. Mr Kranti has
since held photo-exhibitions in various parts of Europe and America.

His first visit to Tibet in 2003 had a direct bearing on his first
contact with the Dalai Lama. Mr Kranti had long wanted to go there.
"It was to lend a sense of credibility to my Tibetan studies that I
decided to take advantage of the Chinese decision to open up Tibet to
tourists and entered the region for the first time in 2003 on a tourist visa.

"There is no doubt that urban parts of Tibet have undergone
tremendous modernisation. Wonderful malls, wide roads, impressive
housing complexes and most lavish car brands are seen on the streets.
Only if you can distinguish between a Chinese and a Tibetan face
would you realise who owns these goodies and for whose benefit all
this development is being undertaken," Mr Kranti said.

His photographs underline attempts by the Chinese authorities to blur
and obliterate anything that has to do with Tibet, its culture,
spiritual traditions and people. Every nook and corner of Tibet today
is replete with contrasting pictures: of beaming, happy and
prosperous Chinese faces versus Tibetan faces reflecting poverty and
deprivation.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank