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Grateful Tibetans thank state

February 22, 2009

21 Feb 2009, 2350 hrs IST, TNN
Times of India

Bangalore: Once I had all, had everything the real princess, the ruling
queen. One day I woke up it was gone. Now I have nothing left And my
heart that's full of doubt Is all I've left to show.

These lyrics from `Living in Exile' by US rock band Sleater-Kinney aptly
reflect the sentiments of Tibetan people in India. Even as they gear up
to mark 50 years in exile, their hearts yearn to return to their
motherland some day. "It is certainly not a happy moment for us as it
signifies our 50 years of hardship and struggle. We will not celebrate
but host a `Thank India Day' across Tibetan settlements in the
country,'' Geshe Thupten Phegye, member of the Tibetan parliament in
exile, said.

As a special gesture, their spiritual leader, The Dalai Lama, will
preside over the February 25 `Thank Karnataka Day' programme organized
by Sera Jey Monastery, University for Advanced Buddhist Studies and
Practice, at Bylakuppe near Kushalnagar in Kodagu.

According to Phegye, Karnataka deserved more appreciation as it was the
first state to extend wholehearted support to Tibetans when they sought
asylum in India following an attempted coup by Chinese forces in 1959 to
take control over Tibet during the reign of the 14th Dalai Lama. Moved
by their plight, India led by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
offered shelter to about 80,000 Tibetans who fled to India.

Karnataka (then Mysore) allotted nearly 3,000 acres of land at Bylakuppe
and the first ever-Tibetan exile settlement, Lugsung Samdupling, came
into existence in 1961.

In 1966, 4,000 acres of forest land near Mundgod in Uttara Kannada
district were allotted to about 15,000 Tibetan refugees followed by the
establishment of two more -- the Rabgayling settlement in Gurupura
village near Hunsur and Dhondenling at Oderapalya near Kollegal.

Currently, the population of Tibetan refugees in India is estimated to
be around 1.35 lakh and Karnataka has the largest number, estimated at
45%. Now, there are 11 camps in the state, of which two are exclusively
for monasteries and referred to as Lama camps. Several colourful
monasteries in these camps serve as universities offering a range of
subjects like Buddhism, Tibetan medicine, English, Mathematics and
Science, besides being tourist attractions.

Helping hand

* Union government extends financial support to build special schools
for Tibetans to provide free education and healthcare

* A few medical and civil engineering seats are reserved for Tibetans

* The 14th Dalai Lama established the Tibetan government-in-exile based
at Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh

* This looks into welfare of Tibetans in exile and coordinates their
socio-political activities

* Also leads worldwide Tibetan movement for a free Tibet

manu.aiyappa@timesgroup.com
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