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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.”


  • tingting




  • schizomorph

    I don’t care for it’s historical name. I would support these people the same if they had never been seperate from china as i support activists from every part of the world supporting causes that i consider just.

    I admire tibetan philosophy and i think it should have a peacefull home.

    What is your philosophy David?

  • James

    To to Shaan:
    Where r you from and why you hav to say that Tibet should be independent under your known-nothing-about tibet?

    The truth that you possed Tibet has a unique culture and it must be protested is the very right way that China is on.China has done the best to help Tibet in its cultre protest and economic development,coz chinese people is living in a big family, while Tibet is administrated by the local gov in the same way as Hongkong of China and Chinese Taibei province.
    I doubt how much you know about Tibet . Do you know where is it ? Do you know its history? Do you know the big difference between now and the Dalai Lama rigime in Tibet?

    Plz use your brain and go youtube to see the truth we chinese post before your wrong way of thinking in this issue show up to make you “lose your face”–do you know its meaning?

    The truth is people in Tibet lead a peacefull and happy life before the viot.

    If you think the kill,robe,distroy and fire the Dalai group did in Tibet is a right performent ,then where is your brain?

  • subjectivelistener

    Hi Shaan, see my comments on your message:

    [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.
    [subj] Atrocities? Are you sure? Show evidence. If you ever visited TIbet in last 5 years and believed so, I would have no choice but agreed with you. But I doubt so.

    [shaan] 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.
    [subj]It is not claimed by China, it is history. However, China has never been loyal to Japan. Never. The official government of China even in world war 2 never surrounded to Japan. Apparently you dont know that history.

    [Shaann] 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.
    [subj] What evidence you have to say Chinese culture was imposed on Tibetans? What I see on the video is numerous monks in the temple. What are they doing there? Can I say all the freespeech and pornographic culture are the culture western imposes on Chinese culture, which was beautiful as well? Where is the Nationalism outburst coming from this round? It is from oversea Chinese because they can see both sides of propaganda.

    I wish to have a peaceful debate.

  • R. Elgin

    Quote: [subj] What evidence you have to say Chinese culture was imposed on Tibetans?
    – – – –
    It seems the concerns of many Tibetans is that there is only the Chinese view of education and history taught. This is a subtle but important point:

    Read paragraphs 12-13. This is an interesting article from 1999. This article mentions also other outside influences that have played a part in undermining Tibetan culture, such as the influx of money into Tibet:

    “The more money we Tibetans have, the higher our living standard is, the more we forget our own culture. And with or without the Chinese, I think that would be happening.” (at the very end of the above linked article).

  • “The truth is people in Tibet lead a peacefull and happy life before the viot.

    If you think the kill,robe,distroy and fire the Dalai group did in Tibet is a right performent ,then where is your brain?”

    1) The fact is, we have no way of knowing how happy or not the Tibetan people are, given that no independent opinion polls, let alone elections, are permitted anywhere in China.

    2) No one is defending the riots in Tibet.

    3) We have no evidence that the Dalai Lama was involved in the recent violence in Tibet, and have no way of confirming or denying the allegation due to the Chinese government’s expulsion of all non-mainland Chinese media from the region.

  • schizomorph

    Hell, this is frustrating. I thought global voices was a serious site that allows people to write their complete opinions without the restrictions of youtube for example. (like limitted number of letters allowed) I thought i was speaking to a more mature crowd.

    I am dissapointed to see that we don’t tap the real issues here.

    A: How can we get a clear image of what’s happening in tibet if reporters a re not allowed there?

    B: What percentage of of the population of tibet are tibetans and what is their number. This should be compared to numbers before the chinese invasion to show the impact it had.

    C: Find the specific things tibetans don’t like about the chinese. This could even help the chinese government resolve the issue peacefully without discussing the seperation of tibet.

    D: What is the geostratigical inportance of tibet to china?

    E: Are the populations who left tibet after the invasion allowed to return to their homes? Will they be compensated if their property has been confiscated?

    F: Are there ways for the chinese public (including tibetans) to ask their government for changes without protesting and using violence? ( I believe violence is used as a last resort when all other way of communication fail. Therefore if there are effective paths people can use to be heard they don’t need to resolve to violence)

    I’m sure there’s more but this will do for now.

    Now my opinion on these:

    A: Chinese activists could upload videos – already done but being amateur video it can easily be questioned as for it’s genuity. On the other hand, professionals are mostly seen as ‘foreign agents’.

    B: No idea whatsoever – educate us please:p

    C: As above

    D: It definately has a lot of touristic value but the tibetan culture needs to be brought out(unused potential). Tibet had an export surplus of 330 million yuan ten years ago(sorry that’s the latest i could find). Trade route to india(?)(>1 billion buyers needing cheap products). Also a lot of investment has started for the last 10-15 years and a new train route started in 06

    E: Please help us find out if you have any info

    F: Please help with more specific info. (I believe communism is supperior to capitalism but has never been applied correctly. Communist parties in any country take up totalitarian approaches. With some democratic elements or ways the people can govern themselves and make political decisions, I think it could actually work and give the world a much needed alternative to capitalism. I was never a communist and i find them quite narrow minded but i realy think a new more ‘left’ approach to the world is very much needed right now globaly. As a very nice documentary about russia said: ‘after the fall of the ussr, russians realised that what they were told about communism was wrong but what they were told about capitalism was right’.)

    For the chinese: Please help westerners who try to be objective with more info but without fanaticifm and extremism. Understand that people who are against you might just not know enough.

    For the rest: Please avoid extremism on your side. It is not the average chinese person’s responsibility what their government does. Don’t forget that parts of china are impoverished and that the (economic) expansion of china is helping them too.

    Especialy on americans: Many of you should just shut up, you’re making this worse for the tibetans because your government and media see china as a massive threat. At the same time, you are the greatest exporter of weapons, have started almost all the wars i’ve heard of and many that were never even known to the world, you are the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons on civilians and list goeas on and on and on and on. By shouting for tibet – even if that’s well intended which i don’t doubt – you make the chinese become even more defensive because they think this is the capitalists trying to break up their country like russia.

    Hope this wasn’t too tireing,


  • gilbert

    to schizomorph:

    For the chinese: Please help westerners who try to be objective with more info but without fanaticifm and extremism. Understand that people who are against you might just not know enough.

    The problem is:

    westerns can’t hear voices fron Chinese medias (or they don’t want to. They just judge Chinese medias as monsters
    and government’s tools. I agree to “Chinese medias are government’s tools” ,just like western medias are loyal
    to its owners. Chinese medias’ boss is the gov.
    Chinese medias usually report correctly ,but someties
    they hide something or lie, just like western media like
    CNN and BBC have done.

    Now, hear some voices from ordinary people.

  • schizomorph

    Oh come on gilbert. You stated the obvious. Tell me something i don’t know. And you stopped just when it was getting interesting. Where’s the voices of the ordinary people?

  • M

    I am from India, and I fully support the fact that China should be broken up into Tibet and China. China should also give back the whole 25% of its territory back to Tibet. It should retain only what it had as historical kingdoms. Its completely false that Tibet was always a part of China. It was conquered only sometimes and then separated again.

    Additionally, I have seen in all countries that Chinese people do not immediately mix up with other people. They mix up only after a very long duration of many years. They are also traditionally and historically back-stabbers. The Chinese culture though good is very alien and it is better kept off separate and on its own.

    Thus, I feel that China should be broken apart into at least two countries of Tibet and China.

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