Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rangzen (Freedom)

The Government’s gag order on Tenzin Tsundue (link via Desipundit ) should come as no surprise. Over the last several years, we’ve seen the ease with which institutions bend over backwards to avoid displeasing those whose sentiments are easily hurt. Think of the censor certificate row that led to Vikalp.

Of course, while it is not clear that the Chinese Government is similarly stuffed with fragile sentiments, our Government probably feels it is right to err on the side of caution.

But deportation? And to Tibet? What does that mean – to deport a Tibetan with a Resident Certificate, to a country that doesn’t exist as an independent entity? In effect, does it not mean handing over Tenzin Tundue to the Chinese Government? It seems a disproportionately severe threat to hold over someone who is only going to say, Free Tibet.

Here’s a poem of Tsundue’s:

When I was born
my mother said you are a refugee.
Our tent on the roadside
smoked in the snow.

On your forehead
between your eyebrows
there is an R embossed
my teacher said.

I scratched and scrubbed,
on my forehead I found
a brash of red pain.

I have three tongues
the one that sings
is my mother tongue.

The R on my forehead
between my English and Hindi
the Tibetan tongue reads:


More poems here.

But lest anyone think that Tsundue is another woolly-headed Tibetan who believes that something will happen some day that will magically solve all the problems of Tibetan refugees, this article should dispel those illusions. He says:

A general apathy over Tibet and this non-action "non-violent freedom struggle' is
slowly killing the movement. Though exotic Tibet sells in the West, there are
hardly any takers when it comes to tackling the real issue. The issue is

and later:

The very nature of the Tibetan problem is political, and it has to have a
political solution. We are grateful to India for whatever help and support she
extended to us, but if the Tibetan problem has to be solved she should support
the freedom struggle.

This might help to explain India's gag order. A call to actively support the Tibetan freedom struggle, over some well-meaning arrangements they might make to facilitate a Kalachakra ceremony? Oh, no. That would be way too risky. Who knows who else might follow with calls to support their freedom struggles?

Other links: Amardeep’s post at Sepia Mutiny

Friends Of Tibet

Pankaj Mishra’s article in NYT


Anonymous said...

Tsundue was one of the winners of last year's Outlook Picador non-fiction contest.

He writes quite brilliantly.

Space Bar said...

Dipta: yes, I like hi sstuff too.

BTW, he won the 2001 Outlook PIcador Non-Fiction Contest.

Batul said...

We are all guilty of looking the other way. Like you say, it's easy to exotize and sympathize, making oneself feel good, visit the Tibetan markets, buy their exquisite jewellery and artefacts, and forget all about it.

And now, China asks for Tawang. Aren't their claims laughable? It would be atrocius for our goverment even to entertain a discussion about this.

But who knows how things work in political echelons?

swar said...

Regarding the Tawang claims by China, I sudddenly remembered an Arunachali monk I taught during my Delhi University days. He told me how most Arunachalis consider themselves to be Tibetans and less Indians, and how the history of Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh intersect to create this relationship. I always thought Arunachal Pradesh was one of the more peaceful states in the North-East but there is resentment/dissent seething underneath and the Indian Government is as usual apathetic.

On the Bikhre Bimb note, it is absolutely refreshing to have civil disagreements on the Indian blogosphere. Most of the time, whenever I disagree with a blogger on his/her blog, all i have got as an answer is overwhelming defensiveness with added jingoism from his/her supporters.

Space Bar said...

Batul: Yes, it is always easy to exoticise; it's one way of making the complex issue moremanageable, I guess.

Swar: These sentiments are echoed in various places of the country. When I was a child and we went to Kashmir, a common question we'd be asked was, 'Are you from India'. I guess this is why the govt. comes down hard on people like Tsundue -- because they do not want every region they consider potentially separatist, to start raising their voices.

Have you also considered the case of Sikkim? India can hardly start pointing fingers at China when they invaded Sikkim.

About 'jingoism from his/her supporters', you're unlikely to find that here, because I hardly get those kind of commenters on my blog! Heh!

Your red button link's a big hit, as youmay have noticed!