An Anniversary Full of Contentions

1. The Contention between ’Peaceful Resistance’ and ’Tibetan Rebellion’

Was 10 March 1959 a day of peaceful resistance or a day of rebellion? This is one of the most contentious issues between Tibet and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The PRC refers to the 10 March “incident” as a day of Tibetan rebellion, whereas we call it a day of peaceful resistance by Tibetans in all regions of Tibet against the intolerable occupation and suppression by China. Nevertheless it has now been forty-eight years that both sides have been remembering this day by giving it different names in different contexts. In reality 10 March was neither a day of minor Tibetan rebellion as the PRC claim, nor was it an entirely peaceful resistance as we claim. It was a well-planned uprising against the Chinese occupation by the Tibetan people. Men, women, nuns and monks resorted to both peaceful and violent methods during the confrontation. It was a day painted in the blood of countless citizens of Tibet who sacrificed their lives. Over the years more and more governments, individuals and Tibet Support Groups stand for and join us on this day all over the world. Thus we have emerged the winners in this campaign.

2. The Battle between the Sky and People

On 10 March this year [2007] the sky cried buckets of rain and the weather turned chilly. The people of Dharamshala accused the sky of bullying them. Amidst the thundering rain, the organizers loudly announced that the sky was testing our nerves and that we should summon our courage and take part in the demonstration. However, the VIPs sitting in the chairs paid no attention to the announcement. Immediately after the formal function was over, they climbed into their fish-like cars swimming in the rain and disappeared into their warm houses. A large number of people also left for their rented rooms declaring, “If YOU do not walk for Tibet, neither will WE.” It gave me the strange emotion of wanting to cry and laugh at the same time.

That left about 2,500 of us, made up mainly of discipline-bound students, monks and nuns, ordinary citizens and about a hundred-odd foreign supporters. Feeling cold both from inside and outside, we took the familiar path shouting the familiar slogans. The road led us to lower Dharamshala and then to the Kachari. The battle between the sky and people that day had a few results: The losers were those who failed to face even the smallest of obstacles — a rainfall had totally defeated them. Then there were those of us as resilient as dry yak skin. Not knowing for how many more years we will need to commemorate this day, we followed that road in the rain. To realize this beautiful dream, cloaked in rounds of hopes, we are ready to jump into burning fires and leap into violent waters.

3. A Contention between Supporters and Marchers (Tibetans)

This year’s forty-eighth anniversary of 10 March was resoundingly commemorated everywhere, particularly in the US where the speaker of the US Congress took part in the 10 March demonstration and delivered a speech. Similarly, many important personalities from the Indian Parliamentarians’ Forum for Tibet came to Dharamshala and made speeches during the 10 March rally in support of Tibet. From another angle, it can be said that there is a new competition between the US and India in supporting Tibet. It is also possible that due to their long-term interests, powerful countries like India and the US have different ideas in supporting the Tibetan cause.

A strange incident regarding the 10 March anniversary this year occurred between the various Dharamshala-based NGOs and the Tibetan Welfare Office as to who should organize the rally. In the end, the NGOs came out the winners and they became the organizers. However, it is very difficult to comment on this outcome.

There were many people who said that they were happy to be able to shout anti-Chinese slogans like “Free Tibet”, “China Out of Tibet”, etc. It wouldn’t have been the case if the Tibetan Welfare Office choreographed the event as it would have followed Kashag policy and told the marchers to recite Words of Truth and Bodhicitta verses.

Another contention over organization was amongst various Tibet Support Groups and the Tibetan NGOs with many exchanges like “If you organize this we will not take part!” and “We won’t march with you!” etc. The event was finally held successfully.

If such mutual disagreements over trifles continue to occur in future, it will end up making our enemies happy, our friends sad, and our claim of unity a distant dream.

4. Statements of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Kashag

Three important documents were issued on the 10 March anniversary — a statement by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Kashag’s statement, and the declaration by the chairman of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. Earlier the Kashag’s statements were prepared in reference to His Holiness’ speech. Over the last few years it seems that there is contention as to who should refer to whom. In the end it is evident that His Holiness’ speech this year was prepared in reference to the Kashag’s statement. For example, much of the terminology in His Holiness’ speech — such as “a genuine national regional autonomy, in letter and spirit, within the constitutional framework of the People’s Republic of China” etc., are terms that the Kashag has been using. Moreover, it is clear from the assertion “The Kashag will provide the details in its statement” that the statement by His Holiness was indeed prepared on the basis of the Kashag’s statement. In view of this development, it will be beneficial to stop issuing 10 March speeches in His Holiness’ name.

The reasons are as follows:

  1. If in future the Tibetan Government-in-Exile stops issuing politically important documents like the 10 March statement with their contents attributed to His Holiness, then we will have fulfilled the Dalai Lama’s assertion that His Holiness is now semi-retired and does not involve himself in active politics.
  2. This will enable our leaders to shoulder responsibilities and frame policies confidently, avoiding the easy way out of using His Holiness’ name if something goes wrong and taking the credit if something goes right.
  3. His Holiness often says that we should prepare for the worst. We must heed his advice and prepare for a time when the Dalai Lama reaches an advanced age and can no longer take an active interest in politics. Hence if we stop issuing statements in His Holiness’ name now, while he is still healthy and active, this will become the most important preparation for the future.

Finally, I would like to narrate a little historical parallel to support the above observations. It is said that when Mao had reached advanced age and become senile, his wife and the Gang of Four used his name to create turmoil during the Cultural Revolution. These days, while studying Mao thought, the Communist leaders laugh and comment that Mao’s later thoughts were not his own. For us, too, it will be extremely hard if in the future we have to admit that Dalai Lama’s latter-day thoughts were not his own. We all well know that if we cause a blunder in the name of His Holiness, it will be no small matter.

Translated from Tibetan by Bhuchung D. Sonam
Published May 2007

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