Students for a Free Tibet, India intern Dilpreet from Pune university shares her experience at Dharamsla during the past two months
As I set foot in the streets of McLeod Ganj it welcomed me with a little drizzle and a lot of helpful smiling people. It was the beginning of a journey which would change my perspectives and my life forever. Coming here was a challenge to be on my own in a new place and also an internship for the summer. Now when the days to go back to the rambles of city life near I don’t want to leave the peace and calm of the mountains, after all I found a place which sleeps. The lovely people and their ever smiling faces will never let you that each one of them wishes and hopes and struggles to go back to that land just behind the snow covered mountains which play peek-a-boo with the clouds.
The organisation Students for a Free Tibet hold a program called the little Lhasa which consists of Indian students who come to know, explore the depths of the Tibetan freedom struggle. As an intern I also participated in the program and though most of it was an eye opener for me, but much more of it was frightening and disturbing. We learnt about religious, political, cultural, environmental and social facets of the movement, but I want to particularly share a few of them in detail.
Today, when women across the globe are holding positions of respect the women inside Tibet are being forced towards prostitution. And the worst part is, in Tibet, prostitution has been made Legal; and this occurs in the most sacred land of the Tibetans, Lhasa, the capital and a symbol of religious beliefs and customs. Tibetans were mainly free spirited, independent nomads for more than 2000 years, Chinese infiltration led to their displacement or to be politically correct “resettlement”; which was indeed forced only to tamper the rich natural resources of Tibet mainly via mining activities and also by building dams which is another very important issue of concern as Tibet is the source of water for 70% of Asia. The loss of identity and forced “resettlements” into places worse thatn concentration camps and cities these nomads were faced with either no skills to hold a job or or no job for their skills. Chinese were given preferences in employment as well as higher salaries. So in a way the lack of jobs lead the women to go into prostitution. This automatically led to the ever increasing threat and spread of the HIV Virus, the humiliation which came with it and fights at family front. The vicious cycle which the Chinese created has led to the disintegration of the rich culture that Tibetans come from.
The second main point of discussion would be the system of education inside Tibet and in-exile. Education is a tool which can be used to teach but at the same time manipulate and play with reality. Yes, Chinese may have formed schools inside Tibet but the medium of education is Chinese and the history has been manipulated to an extent that a Tibetan kid today does not practice his/her language and the threat of the Chinese is so intense that even at home parents wouldn’t discuss their culture in case a kid goes and speaks to a friend and the family will be abducted for spreading falsity. On the other hand Tibetans in-exile struggle every moment to save every child and educate each one of them. The Tibetan Children’s village looks after kids as small as a 2 month toddler until they pass out school get into colleges and stand on their feet. All this is done for free, depending only on sponsors. The medium of education is Tibetan till 5th standard and thus every child knows their language and their history and culture. They take care of each kid as an individual and for each according to his own needs and bring them up as their own children. These kids are many a times orphans, or separated with their families or brought here by parents who are unable to take care of them. No kid is denied admission. It is such a beautiful concept of not only making their life better but also an educated community is the future of the nation.
This town is filled with people who have been of a part of either of three main uprising of 1959, 1989 and 2008. I got a chance to meet one of the most respected and the longest surviving woman political prisoner. Ama Adhe, 88, was a part of the uprising of 1959. She was as young as 27 then and went through torture and starvation which is humanly not possible, but one does it for their country and loved ones. She lost her son and has not met her daughters in more than 40 years and she is banned from entering her own land or to make any tries to communicate with her loved ones. She is a living example like many others who still stand strong that one day she will be reunited and her land will be free in her lifetime. She speaks a different dialect but for one to understand her struggle just needs a heart, language is no longer a barrier. Sometimes I fail to understand how she might sleep without being haunted by the dead bodies she saw or the torture she went through.
Someone once asked me who my real life hero was? I didn’t have any answer then but I have now. Every Tibetan in-exile (1,50,000) is a hero in my eyes. Each day, for a Tibetan is a struggle to save their identity, culture, history, language, their people and their land. Tibetans are setting themselves on fire and this count has gone up to 42. It isn’t violence it is a cry for help without harming others but oneself. The struggle of the Tibetan community inspires me not to forget my roots and my origin. It gives me a sense of nationality I had never felt before. We have been born in a free country and thus our respect for freedom has dwindled. We have forgotten our tradition of “Atithi devo bhava”. The irony is that this little community of a few thousand people exists among us in a free, secular nation and the largest democracy of the world. And it our duty as human beings to help them achieve there long awaited right to freedom of expression, religion and human rights.
53 years is not a short time, we were in the same situation only 65 years ago, scars of which still haunt many. The aforesaid issues are only a glimpse of the struggle, as an Indian I would request all my Indian brothers and sisters to come forward and understand and explore the Tibet issue and how small it may sound to many in the world scenario but so intense interrelated and deep rooted it actually is. And if it is Tibet today it could be parts of our seven sisters tomorrow. It’s a warning and a chance to take precautions while there is still time.
The little Lhasa programme is organised every year by Students for a Free Tibet, an organisation working towards the freedom struggle of Tibet and its people. Come and experience the world of fellow human beings first hand.