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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."

Tibet's 50 years of being too patient?

March 10, 2009

By Shobhan Saxena
Times of India
March 8, 2009

On March 10 every year, the residents of McLeodganj (Upper Dharamshala) wear their finery and head to Tsughlakhang, the temple near the Dalai Lama's house in the middle of a pine forest. After a round of chanting, the Tibetan leader appears on the temple's first floor and addresses the gathering. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Tibetans' failed uprising against the Chinese Army in Lhasa and the Dalai Lama's escape to India. Fifty years is a long time to be patient, so observers believe the Dalai Lama may say something significant this year, thereby giving new direction to the Tibetan movement.

The Dalai Lama is under pressure from November's special conclave of Tibetan representatives held at Dharamshala which put his Middle Way strategy on notice, but he is still preaching patience. On March 10 last year, Lhasa had erupted with monks and ordinary Tibetans coming out on to the streets and clashing with PLA troops.

Wary of bloodshed again, the Dalai Lama used his Losar or Tibetan New Year address of February 24 to ask Tibetans to be patient so that "the precious lives of many Tibetans are not wasted, and they do not have to undergo torture and suffering." But his message was delivered as Tibetans boycotted Losar festivities to protest against last year's Chinese crackdown. "The authorities ordered all shops to be closed on the first day of Losar, but instead of complying with the order, most of the Tibetan shops were open early in the morning," a resident of Kardze in Tibet told Radio Free Asia last week.

Tempers are rising on the Tibetan plateau. Despite China's threat to "wage a people's war" to crush any rebellion, there are protests everyday. In the past few days, monks have taken out protest rallies in parts of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. Last week, a monk in Sichuan tried to burn himself, prompting the Chinese police to shoot at him. Fearing an action replay of last year's unrest, which almost ruined Beijing's Olympics party, China has ensured the largest troop deployment since last year's Sichuan earthquake. Foreigners, including journalists, have been detained.

The Chinese are all set for an ideological assault on the Dalai Lama on March 10 by celebrating it as Serfs Emancipation Day. "There will be no trouble in Tibet. The government has made extensive plans to make sure there is no reccurrence of last year's riots," says Ma Jaili, a senior researcher with the state-run Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing. "Most Tibetans want peace and prosperity. It is only a few mischievous elements misguiding them."

As far as peace goes, the Dalai Lama made it clear on Friday that he was on the same page as the Chinese. "There is no scope for force, violence or terror for resolution of any issue in this globalized world," he said at a conclave in New Delhi.

Some Tibetan officials believe patience could be their strongest weapon against China. "For the first time, the Chinese economy is facing a crisis. They have used their economy to subjugate Tibet and to influence global opinion. Now, it's a good chance for Tibetans to assert themselves," says an official. In their 50th year in exile, it may be harder than ever before for Tibetans to believe the old proverb 'everything comes to him who waits'.

(With Saibal Dasgupta in Beijing)
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