The first ever conference on Tibetan Independence organised by Friends of Tibet, India - an Indian Tibet support group concluded meaningfully after much debate and discussions shaping a sharper point of view on the Independence as the goal of the Tibetan struggle and how to make it happen.
The Conference held at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi from 23 to 24 June 2007, was attended by more than 300 people, mostly Indians from different walks of life, including a sizeable number the Intelligence who sat through out the conference like well mannered school kids.
On the concluding second day early morning, over two hundred Indians and Tibetans listened to Jamyang Norbu, noted Tibetan writer and veteran activists for Tibet's independence, as he explained how the next two years are crucial for Tibet, and how the Olympics could provide the one-chance for Tibetans to come out and protests "like one mighty force". He noted that unless a mass protest occurs, Tibet would continue to slip out of the world map, leaving very little to protest for.
Saying attempts by spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to engage with Beijing were "not successful", Mr Jamyang called for new tactics in the campaign for independence from China.
"You do one hunger strike in front of Yahoo headquarters in the United States and see what happens," said the ardent activist. He stated that companies operating in China should be targeted to force them to divest. The Tibetan writer and celebrity activist spoke in style and distinct of his personality without mincing words. For many Tibetan youngsters who were sitting on the floor, due to limited chairs, it was their first experience to hear Jamyang Norbu speak with such vigorous drive.
Niru Vora, prominent Gandhian and a former professor in the school of Chinese and Japanese Studies of Delhi University, stated, "Tibet is a colonised country, and not just an occupied territory." The usage of occupied territory implies the forced presence of an army, but the situation in Tibet is far more complex and worse, wherein it has been colonised culturally, economically and not just taken over by the Chinese army when it was a full-fledged nation in 1959.
The organisers were surprised with more than triple the number of people expected turning up for the conference. As the sessions were many and there was no end to the flow of questions, tea breaks were forgiven and sessions had to be stretched for hours.
Chairperson Mr. Vijay Kranti said "Now our hero will speak". There was a spark of alertness in the hall as Tibetan poet and activist Tenzin Tsundue was invited to speak. In his distinct red-band and black-shirt he spoke with conviction and emotionally connecting to the audience. He said "though our political stand is different from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, our commitment to Non-violence is same. But non-violence without mass support will not succeed".
Responding to questions he said "we appeal to all parties involved to reconsider their investments in China and Tibet. Your business is destroying our country." Citing the South African example of success of mass movement, he said "Only when corporate interests of Coca Cola, IBM and scores of others were hurt then they put pressure on the white government to relent. We will now devise to do this. If our non-violence fails, we will have to find other means. The international community has the responsibility to support and make the Tibetan struggle succeed."
The other noted speakers on the day, Vijay Kranti, prominent journalist and a long time supporter of an Independent Tibet, Claude Arpi, French researcher and Tibet commentator, Ragav Mittal of Bajaj Foundation also argued for Rangzen. Arpi presented historical and legal documents, which proved Tibet's nationhood and contextualised the seventeen-point agreement and the Strasbourg Proposal. Out of thirteen speakers of the conference, eight of them questioned the validity of Middle Way Approach seeking Autonomy, saying "when China repeatedly rejected this proposal why does it continue to be the policy of the Tibetan Government in Exile?"
Phuntsok Wangchuk, former political prisoner and the General Secretary of Gu Chu Sum movement of speaking in Tibetan, related his experiences of life in prison and the atrocities committed by the Chinese authorities. On the whole he gave the picture of freedom struggle inside Tibet today. When asked what the Tibetans inside Tibet want, he stated confidently that the Tibetans inside Tibet are working for Independence, and nothing else. He said if the hundreds of prisoners submit their loyalty to the Chinese authorities, within five minutes they would be released. "They never give up on Independence and the prisoners continue to languish in prison for many years, some of which more than 20 years," he said. His speech received maximum applause from the audience.
Heated discussion marked the second day of the conference, some of which reflected huge differences in political and ideological point of view.
Indian supporters coming from right wing Hindu nationalist, Leftist, Liberal Leftist and Marxist and also a good dose of Gandhians and JP followers only goes on to prove the variety of Tibet supporters and backgrounds they come from. Naturally their perspectives wound lock horns and it did.
However, everyone stood firmly on the stance of Independence of Tibet acknowledging the view Radha Bhatt expressed "Jab tak Tibbat Azaad nahin hai, India kabhi azaad nahin ho sakta. India hamesha Chin ki Dabao main rehne padega"(As long as Tibet is not free, India can never be free. India will have to forever live under Chinese pressure). Radha Bhatt is a Gandhian, an activist who hugged trees to save them from felling during the 1980s famous Chipko Movement of North India.
The Conference was attended by many prominent journalists, lawyers, and defence strategists, and intellectuals of the country, like Parth Shah of the Centre of Civil Society, Colin Gonzalves, founder of the Human Rights Law Network, Harsh Dhobal, editor Combat Law, Madhur Santanam Sondhi, Major Gen (retd) Vinod Saighal, Dr. Trika of Core group for Tibet, Sonam Wangdue of US Tibet Committee among others. Many young Tibetans and Indians attended the conference with great attention and sat through five sessions that spread into two days.
International participants from USA, France, the UK and Poland and Indian participants from more than 20 states made to the conference. Tibetan participants came from Dharamsala, Kollegal, Bangalore, Dimapur and Dehradoon at their own expenses. Dharma Bums and JJI Exile Brothers presented Rangzen songs. Besides receiving support letters from various International Tibet support bodies, Claudia Roth, Federal Chairwoman of Green Party and Member of Federal Parliament, Germany had sent a letter of support to the conference.
Niru Vora, who has been closely associated in organising the conference with Friends of Tibet, chaired the final session and also presented the Conference Resolution.
NEW DELHI DECLARATION
The Conference Resolution asked for recognizing Tibet as a colony and thus, it proved that the United Nations and other bodies of the International community is compelled to remove the last vestiges of colonialism, and demand for Independence for Tibet. It cited the Resolution number "49/89 Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples" of 7th February 1995 adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, which asks for "Recognizing that the eradication of colonialism is one of the priorities of the Organization for the decade that began in 1990, Deeply conscious of the need to take, speedily, measures to eliminate the last vestiges of colonialism by the year 2000, as called for in its resolution 43/47 of 22 November 1988."
The above-cited resolution, ratified even by China, makes it the "moral responsibility of the UN and the member nations of this body to call a special meeting of the General Assembly and impress upon China that in view of this Resolution, China must restore full independence to whole of Tibet i.e. all the three provinces and its people" (quoted from the Conference Resolution).
The delegation adopted a four-pronged strategy, which will guide its call for Independence for Tibet and its plan of action in the coming years:
Realizing that Complete Independence (Poorna Swaraj) under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and with the help of India and other members of the freedom-loving world community is the only hope for Tibet, the Conference resolves:
1. To call upon the Government of India to recognize the Tibetan Government-in-Exile as the sole legitimate Government of Tibet and the Tibetan people and His Holiness the Dalai Lama as its sole political and spiritual leader.
2. To call upon the United Nations to fulfill its obligation in view of its 1993 UN Declaration that there should remain no colonized country in the world by the year 2000.
3. To call upon every member of the international community to recognize Tibet as one of the last remnant of colonial rule in need of decolonization.
4. To call upon all Tibet Support Groups around the word to put back Complete Independence as their main agenda in their campaigns and observe 22 November every year as "Anti-Colonialism Day" and to run signature campaigns reminding the United Nations to implement its resolutions on Colonialism.
Friends of Tibet, India