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India: Tibet, the Olympic Torch and the Dalai Lama

In this week's roundup of virtual India we look at Tibet in India. Next week the Olympic torch arrives in India. First, Indian footballer Bhaichung Bhutia pulled out, and now Supercop Kiran Bedi has pulled out. However, well-known Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar will be carrying the Olympic torch writes enga. area and adds:

“Sachin actually volunteered himself to carry the torch.Sachin called Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi and expressed his wish to join the other sportsmen who are selected to participate in the Olympic torch relay.”

Tendulkar's decision to carry the Olympic torch was greeted with mixed reactions. Kartikeya of Desicritics writes:

“A great sportsman like Tendulkar should know better than to carry the Olympic torch when others like Kiran Bedi have refused to do so. We can blame the politics of it all, but the simple point is, that it is our Government, and it is our character which is revealed. We ought not to sacrifice it at the altar of “interest”.

While quite a few well-known Indian celebrities have pulled away from participating in the Olympic torch rally it looks like the Left Parties in India have remained consistent in their stand in supporting China or the People's Republic of China (PRC). Jokes From Indian Left writes in his post titled Hypocrisy of the Indian Left Parties:

“Concerned that Tibetan protesters may succeed, CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury called upon the government on Wednesday to see that there were no disruptions. Mr Yethury, It so sounds like you are more worried that Fire may get Hurt when a person attempts self-immolation bids.”

Prem Panickar underscores the dichotomy in Comrade Prakash Karat's stand vis-a-vis China and the USA. Karat is a well-known communist leader  and is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Panickar writes:

“The Prakash Karats of this world, who spout reams about “national sovereignty’ when it comes to discussing the India-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, seem to be totally a-okay with this—a Chinese team on India soil to take over security responsibilities of a public event that should be the internal concern of India’s police and security apparatus alone…”

Well-known travel writer Pico Iyer's new book about the Dalai Lama is a timely one and has once again drawn the world's attention to Tibet. Iyer's new book: The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has received some wonderful reviews and Abhi of Sepia Mutiny writes:

“Instead of treating him merely as a figure to be awed, Iyer describes him as “Forrest Gumpish,” simple yet revolutionary. He is a religious leader who is actively attempting to weaken the dogma of his own religion.”

Read the rest of the post and also discover what novelist Pankaj Mishra has to say about Iyer's book.

I wrote a post summing up the various interviews and review of Pico Iyer, Dalai Lama and Tibet:

“What runs as a red skein in the various reviews and interviews with Iyer about Dalai Lama is the non-violent way in which the Tibetan leader seeks to resolve a long-standing issue over the autonomy of Tibet with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  It is close to 50 years since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet and settled in India.”

What about the Tibetans, who live in India? What do they think of their homeland and going back there? Outside of Tibet, the most number of Tibetans live in India. They live in different parts of India in states like Himachal Pradesh (where Dharamsala is located) to Uttaranchal, Karnataka and New Delhi. What goes through the minds of the young Tibetans, who live in India? Mayank Sufi Austen talks to a young Tibetan who went back to Lhasa and says;

“I was a foreigner in my homeland. I didn't know Chinese and it was everywhere. In restaurants, menus would be written in Chinese and I would ask stewards what was what. I would pass by the city's only theater that screened Hollywood films, dubbed only in Chinese. It was difficult to make out things. I was lost.”

72 comments

  • George

    In the interest of the world and China, it should be split into smaller democratic countries, Tibet being one and Muslim nation second and certainly Taiwan. This will be similar to what happened to Soviet Union. By all accounts they are thriving now.

  • Let’s ask the President and other leaders to make their attendance at the Games contingent on Beijing allowing the Dalai Lama to attend the Games. (He said he’d like to go.)

    That would be a huge concession by China, it calls their bluff on whether the Olympics should be “above politics”, and it lets them make the decision. Plus, it’s a cleaner test that “talk to the D.L.” (which would end as soon as the Olympics are over). Post on this, with White House, Presidential candidates’, and Pelosi and Reid’s contact info:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/m.s.-bellows/activism-you-can-do-send_b_96043.html

  • Daniel Leo

    In response to the comment above, I would say, China in totally different from Soviet Union or sth. Even when China was very weak in the early 20th century or during the Cultural Revolution, Tibet and Taiwan failed to seize the opportunity to allow them to be independent countries. How can state-subversion happen when China is enjoying its growing economic prosperity?
    However, I have to admit that human rights in China are restrained by the government to some extent, but situation is changing in a positive way, in which process the Chinese citizens may suffer sth. I am sure China is on its way to democracy, although its a time-cosuming process.

  • 赵乙玮

    George: I don’t know which country you belongs to. But I must tell you proudly I am a Chinese. For thousands of years, we Chinese love our country. It is none of your business whether China should be divided into smaller countries. You cannot benefit from this either. The response of most western countries is a reflection of that China has developed so rapidly that has already threatened you all. As a Chinese, I must tell you that we will love and support our country at any cost!

  • schizomorph

    Hi George. My name is George too and I’m from Greece. You are right that the west sees china as a threat and they use human rights as the way to push china. But with this situation, the chinese government has been exposed for it’s oppression. It is for the advantage of the chinese public to improve human rights and indeed if you had succeded in proving the westerners wrong (by starting talks with the dalai lama), it would be like taking their gun from their hand. You would be doubly benefited: From showing a grown-up, pleasant image before the olympics(what better advertisement can a country get?) and by improving the quality of life of your citizens.

    The other mistake your government makes is that tibet in a way is one of the greatest religious capitals of the world and a great cultural heritage. It needs to be free (even if that means greater autonomy as a part of china)and open to public. The whole world loses by access being restricted to Tibet. The Tibetan/ Buddist point of view as a religious voice is precious for the world because it is a voice for peace at the time of conflict between ‘christian’ and ‘muslim’ extremism.
    I wish the chinese would use the bilion of brains they have to resolve this issue peacefully. I think it is to their advantage – both for the country and for the people. After all communism should be for the good of the public first.
    India’s position on this issue (in the distant way i see it being from greece) is quite awkward. On one hand, religiously tibet is a holy place therefore it should be free. And on the other hand relations with china have improved and this issue is damaging them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the people believed that tibet should be free and the government the opposite.

  • gilbert

    I’M from China. First of all, I admit China have human rights problems, but not exactly the situation you saw
    or heard from many western medias, like CNN. They are just using all their energe to slander Chinese goverment, including lying to their people…
    Actually, hunman rights are improved since 1980s. I
    borned here, living here till now, China is go on right
    ways, and becoming better and stronger. But, sadly,
    some of the western people don’t want to accept the truth.

    If they do want to improve chinese hunman rights, they can talk to Chinese government, make some communions.
    They treat China as a threaten, or another Soviet Union.

    Some countries, when you are creating difficulties for China, you need a mirror look at yourself first.
    how you treated black people, how you did to Indian,
    how you did to China in 31st, May, 1900?

    What is hunman right? we all have to think about it…

  • subjectivelistener

    Hi George and George

    Who has a higher moral high land? Think about.
    Western government? Dalai Lama? or Chinese government?
    I believe in NONE of them.

    Western media is so biased. That is why so many OVERSEA chinese are so upset and they are trying to use their own time and effort to fight back on youtube and various forum. Check youtube.

    Dailai Lama? A religious and political leader in the past Tibet? You need to know how the society looked like under Dalai Lama’s regime. Check youtube.

    Chinese government? Apparently not because they dont want to lose control in Tibet. However, they have really done a lot to help the economics of Tibet. Check youtube.

    If nobody has a higher moral high land, then no point to teach others on how to settle the problem.

    One thing for sure, the recent development of Media bias and Olympic torch disturbance makes the hope of peace talk down to the drain. Chinese government and Chinese people will not give in under the pressure.

    Sad, right? This is happening. Still, I believe in Mind Your Own Business.

  • Shaan

    Just because all countries commited wrong during some time of their history we cannot say they have no right to criticize when others commit atrocities at present.

    China claims that Tibet was once part of a Chinese empire. If we apply the same logic then Japan has the right to claim sovereignty over China and Britain has the right to claim sovereignty over most of the world.

    The truth is Tibet has a unique culture and it must be protected. The former Soviet Union gave importance to Russian culture at the expense of other cultures that were part of it and this was one of the key reasons for its disintegration. The Chinese are doing the same mistake. They invaded and occupied Tibet and they are trying to impose Chinese culture on Tibetans. If they are wise they would take these protests as an opportunity, revisit their ideologies, understand the need for greater autonomy for Tibet and grant it. Nothing else will solve this problem. Nationalistic outbursts are not going to help.

  • David

    I have read many of the above comments. It seemed to me that most of you think Tibet was an independent country and then was occupied by China. I am so confused that I have to ask you how much do you know about Tibet? Could you tell me the name of the country when Tibet was an independent one?

  • Jimmy

    Why the european and the american just mind their own business?? Tibet is and will be one providence of China forever and so as Taiwan. Why don’t people go out saying “Free Barcelona from Spain”?? or “Independent Hawaii from the states”?? all those countries just afraid of China become stronger and stronger. British sent out the troops to Iraq to kill innocent people, and they are having the olympic game in 2012?? If those countries now all saying they don’t want to be part of the olympic game in China, why did they vote for China in 2001???

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