Protest as celebration of difference
By Tenzin Tsundue, April 2006

issue : AT n°1 - 2006
author : Tenzin Tsundue
file : Pluralism
other language :French

A group of about 200 Tibetans were arrested in 2002 while staging a surprise protest in the high streets of Mumbai when the then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji visited the Indian business capital. The police station was found too small to house the Tibetan assembly and the jailors had never seen so many Tibetans together. So the jail inspector asked the protestors why they were arrested. Looking at this as a chance to explain their grief, the Tibetans explained how much suffering the Tibetans had to undergo because of Chinese occupation of Tibet. Then the jailors raised his lathi to beat up the Tibetans and said "you say more a million Tibetans have been killed, 6000 monasteries destroyed, thousands still in prisoner and for that all that you did was raised slogans? Is freedom struggle? Now I will beat you."

The worst thing for any victim is not the pain that one has undergone, but the knowledge that culprit is still roaming free, and worse if the victim has stand in silence while the culprit goes about in the crowd with the show of power and . To be in free country and allowing Chinese leaders unopposed, allowing them to carry about their businesses as if everything is fine back in China and Tibet is a DUTY not performed. We protest not because we hate Chinese, but because we want to speak to their conscience for their wrong doing, and tell them we have not forgotten and that we still protest this, and also to tell the world the injustice we are suffering at the hands of the brute and the bully, thereby seeking their support.

As the Chinese president Hu Jintao is visiting the US and Canada this month, and India early next month, Tibetans and Tibet supporters are in confusion how to respond to it. While their hearts go out to shout "Free Tibet" slogans, the Exile Government is making desperate appeals asking all Tibetans and supporters not to do so.

Some Tibet Support Groups have proposed for a general adherence to Kashag's request not to protest as a strategy to give China one last chance to respond to Kashag's efforts to create "conducive atmosphere" for dialogue with China. It sounds like a call for a unified move, but we must understand that we are united in our spirit to work for the benefit of Tibet; our ways of working are different. The 1960's "one cause one slogan" is no longer possible. We have moved.

Some TSGs further say a general adherence to this call for silence during Hu Jintaos's visit would strengthen His Holiness's credibility. If we talk of credibility there can be no bigger statement than thousands of Tibetans in all parts of Tibet burning the tiger and leopard skin clothes after a single word of ethical advice.

The issue of Tibet is beyond the power and authority of His Holiness the Dalai-Lama and this, His Holiness himself has been saying from the beginning. Of course, we all have immense respect of him and I personally worship him for the Buddha that he is, but when it comes to the issues of Tibet, I feel there is a lot of political and moral pressure on him; and seeking autonomy under China is not his first Choice, but a practical decision as per the situation. I know he is absolutely sincere in his decision making.

The issue of Tibet is the issue of Tibetan nation and its independence, the freedom of six million Tibetans and now that the seeds of democracy that His Holiness sowed in 1960 has come of age. Young people with independent democratic mind no longer stay cowed down under social pressure to conform as in the 1960s and 70s. Today the difference is only in political stand; tomorrow it may be the means. China is losing time to find safe solutions to Tibet with the aging Dalai-Lama.

The exile Tibetan society has gained more acceptance of variance in ideologies and perspectives, and this is a true social development we have achieved being in free country and it is genuinely the strength of Tibetan community. Strength of the society lies not in blindly following a leader, but genuinely working for one's own political believes. This variety is both beauty and power.

Though the Tibetan government in exile has requested Tibetans and Tibet supporters to restrain from making anti-China protest during forthcoming Hu Jintao's visit, and even got His Holiness to make similar request in his March 10 speech this year, it is only a request. It is up to each individual Tibetans to decide, and for a Tibet Support Group, I feel just as they came as volunteers to support Tibet, they must continue to review their opinions and make a decision on their own. TSGs are for Tibet, not for the policies of the Exile Government that changes from time to time, as per political need. Our difference of opinion is only natural, there must be mutual respect. We must celebrate the difference.

The Tibetans are not scattered in different parts of the world, we have spread all over the world. And from every corner of the world there should be free Tibet campaign. We are not divided in opinions; we have richness in variety and are exploring hundred different ways to find solution to Tibet. This is our strength.