Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

India's Tibetan Exile Community Nears Critical Juncture

December 26, 2010

Kurt Achin, VOA | Dharamsala, India 20 December 2010

Indian authorities last week detained more than 20 Tibetan independence
supporters who protested against Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to

Mr. Wen has come and gone, but India's hosting of the Tibetan exile
community, which is nearing a major political milestone, remains an
irritant in the two countries' relationship.

In Dharamsala, India, Tibetan musicians pay tribute to political
prisoners held by China and Tibetan Buddhist devotees sing a daily
prayer for the safety of their spiritual leader in his travels.

Such activities would invite severe punishment for the six million
Tibetans living under Chinese control, but in Dharamsala, it is just
another day.

This quiet corner of the Himalayas has been the Dalai Lama's home for
most of the 51 years since he fled across the Indian border in 1959. By
hosting him, India has incubated not only one of the world's most
recognizable celebrities, but also a political process.

His Holiness, as followers call him, has slowly delegated political
power away from himself and towards a democratic administrative
structure. Its task is to care for the more than 130,000 Tibetans in
exile, and to seek reunification with their historic homeland.

This March, the Dalai Lama, now 76-years-old, has indicated he will
formally request that members let him retire from political duties.
Tibetan exile officials, including current Kalon Tripa Samdhong
Rinpoche, are anxious about that.

"We all at this moment are concentrating to one point," Rinpoche says.
"How to persuade his Holiness not to withdraw."

No other Tibetan enjoys anything approaching the world fame of the Dalai
Lama. And no one else, says Rinpoche, has the same influence over Tibetans.

"His Holiness is the binding force for all the Tibetan people. As the
torch of light, or the leader, he must be there," says Rinpoche.
"Otherwise, the elected person alone cannot take the responsibility.
That much I know."

Many suspect the Dalai Lama is seeking retirement not out of a desire
for a rest, but as a way of pushing Tibetan exile democracy to be more
self-reliant. He has always said he wants to step out of the way and let
democratically elected officials handle Tibetan affairs.

A more democratic Tibetan community may become more contentious, paving
the way for possible challenges to the Dalai Lama's vision of a
democratic Tibet living autonomously under Chinese rule.

Tenzin Chokey of the Tibetan Youth Congress says Tibetans should demand
more than just autonomy.

"Tibetan independence is the ultimate resolution to the problem," says
Chokey. "We cannot sit and wait for China to talk to us. Stop using the
soft power, we need to get a little more aggressive than that," she says.

Tibetan frustration boiled over visibly in 2008, when protests erupted
across Chinese-controlled Tibet. It is unclear what effect a diminished
role for the Dalai Lama will have on such emotions.

Deputy speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile Dolma Gyari says if
His Holiness insists on stepping away from politics, it will put added
burdens on the next Kalon Tripa.

"It has to be a leader who is not only good in governance, but who's
good in uniting the strength of the people inside and outside of Tibet,
and taking them forward together," says Gyari.

After the Dalai Lama passes on, Tibet's administration will have to make
due for 15 years or more while their tradition selects a reincarnated
Lama, and raises him or her through childhood. That gives the exile
government a strong incentive to master the art of self-reliance.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank