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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?"

Ladakh Buddhists on the edge as India, China cosy up

December 15, 2007

Kavita Suri
The Statesman

LEH, Dec. 13, 2007: As India is diluting her support to the Tibetan
cause for forging new ties with China, thousands of Buddhists living in
this small region of Ladakh, neighbouring Tibet, are feeling threatened
by the increasing closeness between the two neighbours. These
developments, the Buddhists of Ladakh say, will have a direct bearing on
Ladakh “as China is on a rampage of Tibetan monasteries and heritage in
that region”.

“As both India and China are forging new ties, we believe that this
development will have an impact on all of us Buddhists living in
Ladakh,” said Mr Tashi Targis, president, Himalayan Parivar, an umbrella
organisation comprising various social and cultural organisations,
including Himalayan Cultural Buddhist Association and Himalayan
Committee for Action for Tibet, which support Tibet’s freedom from China.

Living right on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Ladakh,
Buddhists have very strong emotional and spiritual ties with Tibet. Not
only Ladakh Buddhism draws inspiration from Tibetan Buddhism, but
Buddhists feel closer to culturally and demographically. The increasing
Chinese proximity with India has threatened this minuscule Himalayan
community.

“China is on rampage and is attacking our cultural heritage with the
objective to wipe out Tibetan Buddhism from the region,” said Mr Targis
while informing that in the past few months, three-four Buddhist
monasteries in Tibet were damaged by China.

“Just a couple of kilometers from Kailash Mansarovar, Tarchin monastery
has been damaged by China. Two more monasteries, each one of which was
dedicated to Goddess Tara and Lord Padamasambhava, have been damaged by
the Chinese,” said Mr Targis adding that this is being executed as part
of a well-planned conspiracy to end left-over Buddhist influence on Tibet.

There were said to be over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet where over 20 per
cent of the male population was resident. The Chinese invasion on Tibet
in 1950’s destroyed mant monasteries and allowed only some of the most
famous to physically remain. Although there have been periodic
liberalisations allowing a small number of people to become monks or
nuns, this has fluctuated with the political whims of Beijing.

Dzogchen Monastery, one of the six great monasteries of the Nyingma
tradition, the original Buddhist tradition in Tibet, located in Eastern
Tibet in the Chinese province of Sichuan was destroyed by the Chinese in
the late 1950s.

Another monastery Drepung which was the largest monastery in Tibet,
housing 10,000 monks of the Gelugpa (yellow Hat) order, located a few
kilometer west of Lhasa was also damaged. “One of the very important
monasteries in Tibet, Samyas monastery which was set up by Guru
Padamasambhava, has also been damaged by Chinese,” said Mr Targis adding
that Shogchag Gompa, situated ten kms away, has also been damaged recently.

Having faced Chinese aggression once in 1962 in which India lost a major
portion of the Ladakh to China, the Buddhist community in Ladakh, which
is largely influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, wants New Delhi to talk to
China on the issue including independence for Tibet.

“Tibet is in a shambles today. The people are silenced violently; there
is no freedom of faith. We want India to talk to Chin and His Holiness,
the Dalai Lama over the future of Tibet and find a long lasting
solution,” said Mr Tashi Targis adding that the restoration of free and
peaceful Tibet as envisioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama will benefit
the whole of Asia politically and environmentally.
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