Spread the love

In India, Tibetan exiles remember “Free Tibet”

The dalaï-lama, drapé of garnet and saffron, urged&eac; monks and nuns à develop a "compassionate heart" for our troubled world by the conflicts, during his last public prayers a few weeks before the Sunday commemoration of the uprising in Tibet here and there. 65 years old.

“Being a good human being is everyone’s responsibility,” he preached, “I urge you all to strive to achieve it.”

Even if the 88-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader says he is convinced that he will live for a long time, the Tibetans who followed him into exile are inevitably preparing to a future without him.

China considers Tibet an integral part of its territory and many Tibetan exiles fear seeing Beijing appoint a successor to the Dalai Lama in order to 'ensure its total influence.

In India, Tibetan exiles remember “Free Tibet”

Tibetans gathered in front of the Potala Palace (former home of the Dalai Lama) during the armed uprising against Chinese rule on March 10, 1959 in Lhasa, Tibet © AFP – –

Tsultrim, 95 years old, former member of the Tibetan guerrillas supported by the CIA, remembers as if it were yesterday March 10, 1959 when he joined the resistance against the Chinese communist forces.

“We were asked to stand up to resist the invasion of the Chinese army and to escort the Dalai Lama into exile,” Tsultrim, a cheerful old man who kept his fighting ways with his handle, told AFP. with a firm hand and his gray hair cut close.

The uprising was quickly crushed and the Dalai Lama, followed by tens of thousands of Tibetans, was forced to flee through the snow-capped Himalayan mountains before finding refuge in India.

In India, Tibetan exiles remember “Free Tibet”

Tsultrim, former fighter of the Tibetan guerrilla supported by the CIA, during an interview with AFP in Dharamsala, February 19, 2024 in India © AFP – Sajjad HUSSAIN

Exiled since, like the Dalai Lama, to Dharamsala in northern India, Tsultrim, who uses only one name, is part of the last generation to have known free Tibet and told younger people not to trust Beijing.

“Before Tibet lost its independence, we were herders and farmers,” explains Tsultrim, “life was good and our livelihoods were healthy ( …) We had nothing to do with money, the shepherds sold meat and butter and the farmers sold cereals.”

– The past –

Tsultrim then joined the Tibetan insurgents based in the kingdom of Mustang in Nepal in 1960 to be trained and equipped by the CIA.

In India, Tibetan exiles remember “Free Tibet”

Tibetan fighters gathered in April 1959 in the Tibet Autonomous Region after the Dalai Lama reached India © AFP – Source AFP

“We were volunteers with our own horses and carried our guns and our food,” he recalled.

He thus led several clandestine incursions into Tibet under Chinese control to carry out sabotage operations, for more than a decade. “We continued to wage war.”

Washington used this secret force of 2,000 men during the Cold War.

But after the end of CIA funding and the Dalai Lama's call in 1974 for his supporters to lay down their arms in favor of a peaceful solution, Tsultrim left for India.

There, he worked for decades as a farm laborer before retiring just a stone's throw from the Dalai Lama's residence.

“I came to see the Dalai Lama before he died,” he confides.

In India, Tibetan exiles remember “Free Tibet”

Exiled Tibetan Ngodup Palden, during an interview with AFP in Dharamsala, February 19, 2024 in India © AFP – Sajjad HUSSAIN

His comrade, Ngodup Palden, 90, was a paratrooper in the Tibeto-Indian special force for 24 years and fought in the Sino-Indian war of 1962.

“Before we lost our country, we led a comfortable life,” he tells AFP, his gaze fixed on the peaks of the Himalayas separating him from his native country.

“I hope to return to free Tibet during my lifetime,” he adds, telling a rosary between his fingers. “There remains in my heart a little hope of returning to my homeland, my beautiful homeland.”

– The present –

Those who arrive from Tibet today say that this dream of “free Tibet” is in vain.

In the past, thousands of Tibetans fled to India each year, but fewer than a dozen managed to flee last year, according to the Tibetan government in exile.

In India, Tibetan exiles remember “Free Tibet”

Tsering Dawa, former bank manager in Lhasa, at his home in McLeod Ganj near Dharamsala, February 18, 2024 in India © AFP – Sajjad HUSSAIN

“I feel like a bird locked up for a long time that finds itself free to flap its wings and fly,” Tsering Dawa, 37, a former bank manager in Lhasa, told AFP.

For sending a message to a group of exiles about passport restrictions for Tibetans in 2015, he was detained for nearly a year without trial and beaten during interrogations that brought him to the “edge of the madness”,

Fearing of being arrested again after having alerted exiled journalists to communist “indoctrination sessions” of young Tibetans, he decided to flee in 2020.

“I told my mother that if we stayed in Tibet we would die” and that she would be punished if he left without her. “If we leave, there is a 50 percent chance of making it,” he assured her.

The banker, charged with a small bag and accompanied by his 68-year-old mother, left for “a tourist vacation”.

In India, Tibetan exiles remember “Free Tibet”

Tsering Dawa, former bank manager in Lhasa, during an interview with AFP at his home in McLeod Ganj, near Dharamsala, on February 18, 2024 in India © AFP – Sajjad HUSSAIN

Camouflaging their terror behind the happy smiles of vacationers while photographing themselves at Lhasa airport, they began their journey to India by a circuitous route.

It was “thanks to my willingness to sacrifice everything”, he admits in his cramped studio, confiding that he left behind 600,000 yuan ($83,000) in his account , two houses and a car.

– The future –

Tens of thousands of Tibetans have left India since 2011, according to Indian government figures, seeking opportunities elsewhere and thus weakening Tibet's cause.

In India, Tibetan exiles remember “Free Tibet”

Tenzin Dawa, director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, during an interview with AFP in Dharamsala, February 20, 2024 in India © AFP – Sajjad HUSSAIN

“We grew up stateless in India (…) we don't know what could happen if His Holiness the Dalai Lama dies,” worries Tenzin Dawa, 31, born in India and director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

“This is the reason for a strong emigration of Tibetans to Europe and North America”, she underlines.

The younger generations, born in exile, feel their future threatened, and are losing hope of ever knowing their ancestral land, she declares. However, “it is up to them to continue the movement”.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116