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Return to Arunachal

November 15, 2009

The Dalai Lama visits the border region where he
crossed into India from Tibet 50 years ago
By Maura Moynihan
Radio Free Asia (RFA)
November 13, 2009

DHARAMSALA -- The Dalai Lama returned this week
to Arunachal Pradesh, the northeastern Indian
state where he was delivered to safety by Tibetan
resistance fighters 50 years ago.

At the end of his four-day visit, the Dalai Lama
took a government helicopter to the border town
of Bomdilla, where he had received the historic
telegram from former Indian Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru granting him political asylum
after his flight from a Tibetan capital besieged by Chinese soldiers.

Today, the Chinese Communist Party shows no sign
of softening its hardline stance on Tibet.
Beijing has launched a series of virulent new
propaganda assaults on the Dalai Lama, branding
him a "splittist with evil intentions," while
pressuring world leaders to cancel meetings with the Tibetan leader.

China most recently attacked the Indian
government for allowing the Dalai Lama to journey
to Arunachal -- a Tibetan cultural zone Beijing
now refers to as “Southern Tibet.” The name
implies that this part of Buddhist Himalaya
belongs by right to China, and the attacks
prompted officials in New Delhi to cut their trip
short and expel all journalists from the region Friday.

While leading Buddhist teachings at Tawang
Monastery, the Dalai Lama spoke to the few
journalists permitted to report on his trip's
efforts to restart dialogue on Tibet with the Chinese Communist Party.

'A quiet secret'

"In 2002 we renewed direct contact with Beijing,
after a long time. I told the Chinese government
that I, the Dalai Lama, am not the issue. The
issue is the 6 million Tibetan people’s
well-being—their basic rights. Unless the Chinese
government addresses these basic issues
seriously, there is no question of my return [to
Tibet],” the Dalai Lama told the press.

"I want to share with you one quiet secret. In
February 2006 we had a meeting with a Chinese
official who acknowledged that 'the Dalai Lama’s
side' was not seeking independence. But then, in
April 2006, they intensified the accusation that I am a separatist."

"In the same year, the Nangpala shooting took
place, so their whole policy become hardened, and
they feel they can just continuously make these
accusations,” he said, referring to an incident
in which unarmed Tibetan refugees were shot and
killed by Chinese border guards while trying to
cross the border from Tibet into Nepal.

As exiled Tibetans ready for the return of the
Dalai Lama to the refugee town of Dharamsala,
perched high above the Kangra Valley, a spirited
debate about the state of the Tibetan movement
swirls through McLeod Ganj, the Tibetan market
center near the Dalai Lama's residence.

Many Tibetans now openly question the Tibetan
government-in-exile’s "Middle Way" policy of
conceding Tibetan independence to China in
exchange for “genuine regional autonomy.”

"Fifty years have passed, and China has not
changed its position on Tibet one inch. They are
more irrational than ever," said Lobsang Dorjee,
a Tibetan activist based in Dharamsala.

"The language they use to describe the Dalai Lama
has become more and more extreme. The 'Middle
Way' approach makes maximum concessions to China.
In return, we get nothing. They are even claiming
that Arunachal and Ladakh belong to China. It’s
like they’ve declared war over Tibet once again,
years after the 1962 border war with India,” he said.

"I find it so painful to watch the Dalai Lama
saying again and again that he wants peace with
China, that he doesn’t want independence, while
the Chinese attack him everywhere he goes,” said
Tsomo, a nurse working in Lower Dharamsala.

'Our only hope'

"It’s not enough that China has control over
Tibet. They want to destroy all the work the
Dalai Lama has done here with the Tibetan
refugees. They attack any [country] which
supports Tibet, big and small. I am afraid of
what China will do next. I don’t feel any Tibetan is safe.”

Lhasang Tsering, Dharamsala’s poet laureate, said
the Dalai Lama needs to take a stronger stance against China.

"The Dalai Lama owes it to the Tibetan people to
face the harsh reality of what China is doing. We
should thank China for politicizing the Dalai
Lama’s simple trip to Arunachal, a place with
special memories for him. It’s where he crossed
onto Indian soil, and where his [earlier]
incarnation, the 6th Dalai Lama, was born.
China’s hysteria gave the story huge
international coverage and exposed the Chinese
government as petty dictators,” he said.

Many in Dharamsala express gratitude toward the
Indian government for allowing the Dalai Lama to
visit Arunachal, despite pressure from China to cancel the trip.

"India is our only hope," said Tenzing Tsetan, a
PhD candidate at Delhi University studying China’s nationalities policy.

"In our demonstrations, we always shout, 'Tibet
Ki Azaadi, Bharat Ki Saraksha,' which means,
Tibet’s freedom is India’s security. It is in
India’s interest to support the Tibetan cause. They shouldn’t be afraid.”
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