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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

"Independence, Even after I Die"

May 3, 2009

Dilnaz Boga
Morung Express
May 2, 2009

On the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising,
73-year-old Tibetan nun Anila recalls the torture
and violence she experienced in 1959, when the
Red Army overran Lhasa. It took her more than 20
years to make her way to India and be reunited
with her husband 73-year-old Tibetan nun Anila
recalls the torture and violence she experienced in 1959

Anila’s frail body, wrapped in her maroon robes,
does not betray the harsh conditions she has
survived in her youth. She has survived the pain
of being separated from her husband, hard labour
camp, and torture. She offers us a bowl of
sweets, welcoming us into her home in
Dharamshala, the refuge of Tibetans in exile in
the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. "I’m happy
that our youth are struggling for the Tibetan
cause. I’m very proud of them. I know we will
gain independence even after I die. Even though I
have suffered from the age of 24, I know
everything will be all right because our Dalai
Lama is still alive. That’s why I have faith. Some day, we will be free.”

It’s been 50 years since the 1959 Tibetan
Uprising failed to win back Tibet for its people,
but the long struggle has not dented this old
survivor’s belief that right will prevail.
Despite the sacrifice of thousands of lives,
Tibet continues to be occupied by the Chinese
Army and the 73-year-old Tibetan nun continues to
hope for a better future. "Our enemy is the worst
of its kind, but we have truth on our side, and
we are on the right side. I believe in karma –
cause and effect – I have no doubt Tibet will be
free,” says Anila. “All was well in Tibet before
the Chinese arrived (in 1950). I was only 10
years old then,” she recalls. “Life was good
until then. I went to school, worked at home and
lived a happy life with my family.”

Anila was born in the village of Chamdo in
eastern Tibet. Her village was one of the first
to be taken over by the occupying Chinese forces.
Initially, there was no trouble. “The forces were
present everywhere but they did no harm and were
good to us. But for some reason, we never trusted them."

At 21, Anila married and moved to Lhasa. Till
1959, there was no oppression by the Red Army,
Anila recalls. They would help the villagers by
distributing food and luxury items, tackle
unemployment, pay children to attend school and
started women’s organisations to win the trust of
the masses. But as time passed, the Chinese
troops moved into the capital Lhasa, and there
were rumours that they were going to occupy it.

As the Tibetans resisted, the army unleashed
unbridled violence on the locals. "They started
shelling our villages and killing people at
random. People began to protest. I couldn’t do
much at the time as I was pregnant with my second daughter,” says Anila.

Her husband was a highly placed official, who
worked closely with the Dalai Lama and had been
privy to the daily meetings at the palace and
reports of Chinese aggression from different
parts of Tibet. Rumours that Lhasa would be taken
over by the Chinese and that the Dalai Lama was
going to be abducted by the army brought emotions
to a boiling point. Some 30,000 Tibetans came out
onto the streets to protect His Holiness. The
situation deteriorated so quickly that by
afternoon, recalls Anila, the Chinese troops had
started shooting people in the streets.

 From her terrace that day Anila saw a neighbour
shot dead on his terrace. Pointing to her
forehead, she cries, “Here’s where they shot
him.” Worried for the safety of her family, she
begged her husband to stay home, “but we were
very worried about His Holiness. My husband, who
was sworn to secrecy at the time, told me not to
worry and that His Holiness had fled from the
palace three days ago, and was safe.

"My husband was on duty and had to leave for
Tsunklakhang temple in Lhasa. People were making
holes in their walls to escape the shelling and
the shooting. We were so desperate. I thought the
house was going to collapse on us, so I stepped
outside to seek a way out. I rushed back home the
next day when I saw a Chinese tank at the gate."

The following day, Chinese soldiers with bayonets
marched into all homes, hunting for the men. Even
the sick were not spared, Anila laments. “The
children would be petrified every time a new
group of soldiers rummaged through our home. This
went on for days." Anila paid the price for her
husband’s job and for her brother who had joined
the volunteer army. The Chinese branded her an
outlaw and placed her under house arrest. All her
belongings were confiscated; she was tortured and
sent to a labour camp to work while her children
remained unsupervised at home.

"The clothes we were wearing were all we were
left with. Everything else was taken away. I had
to report to the army every week. Thrice a week
they would deprive us of sleep, soldiers would
keep the family awake as a tool of torture,” she
says. All this while she had no news of her
husband and did not know if he was alive or dead.
In 1979, the first Tibetan envoys -- a
fact-finding delegation of the Tibetan government
--in-exile - began a tour of Tibet. That is when
Anila heard the news she was thirsting to hear.
Her husband was alive and well in Bhutan. For the
next two years, she pleaded with the Chinese to
release her so she could go to India, but they would not hear of it.

In 1981, Anila finally got permission from the
Chinese to go to India. She boarded a truck from
Lhasa to Dum village on the Tibetan border
together with her daughter and granddaughter. The
truck got washed away by a ferocious river, and
Anila and 22 other Tibetans walked for three days
until they reached the Nepal border. From there,
many were reunited with their worried relatives
living in a refugee camp in the southern state of
Karnataka in India. But not Anila. The wait for
her husband continued for another six months,
when the family was finally reunited and their
application to move to Dharamshala was accepted.

Anila was in her late-40s when she chose to
become a nun because she wanted to renounce the
world. Her husband has passed on and today she
lives with her granddaughter, a teacher. Her
younger daughter has returned to Tibet. Anila has
no regrets about this. "If we all leave, then who
will stay there on our captured land?" she asks.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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