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"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."

Rest In India, Unrest in Tibet: A Curious Case of Human Butter Lamps

February 14, 2012

Kochi: The 17th Wellbeing medical camp organised in collaboration with Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of HH the Dalai Lama and Friends of Tibet (Kerala) was held at Ashirbhavan, Ernakulam from March 8-11, 2012. The camp was successful as a large number of patients got cured by the medical care provided by the doctors and nurses at the camp. The camp in that sense can be called in as a great success. A rest for many with painful ailments, weariness and such problems of the body and the mind.

But even when we are receiving the essential 'rest' (Swasthya) in India, the condition in the parent land of this rest is burning profusely — often spewing lava. A recent newspaper report showed that the monks who were given permission to travel to India to attend the Kalachakra Initiation led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama were questioned intensively suspecting indoctrination by the Chinese. This has created a wide spread 'unrest' (Aswasthya) in Tibet.

This unrest in Tibet didn't start on all of a sudden. It had started many years back — from the very first days of Chinese colonisation in the 1950s. The unrest was in its pinnacle with the Mustang Rebels of 1970s, the Monalam 'Riots' of 1980s and the Lhasa 'Riots' of 2008. All these were brutally suppressed by the military regime in China.

A recent development in this issue is the self-immolation of 20-odd Tibetans protesting the Chinese rule. Monks, nuns and ordinary citizens have set themselves ablaze. In India we have seen the 'Goswamy Self-Immolation Act' as the then Prime Minister VP Singh wanted to enforce the Mandal Commission Report. This ended the mandala of the report. No such response was there in China only an official denunciation of the agitators as right wing extremists. Phew!

On this occasion the Tibetan Parliament, Kashang, and the Prime Minister or the Kalon Tripa has issued statements regarding self immolations inside Tibet. They have requested the Tibetans not to celebrate the Tibetan New Year — Losar, which falls on February 22. The Tibetans and their friends have set apart February 8, 2012 as a day of prayer and peaceful protest against what is happening in Tibet. They have been asked to request the governments to voice the cause of Tibet in world forums like that of the UN as well as organise awareness camps in their residing countries.

As part of the above mentioned global call, the medical camp in Kochi offered extra prayers by Dr Dorjee Rapten Neshar and Dr Tenzin Norbu of Men-Tsee-Khang. The patients were told about the importance of the date and were made aware of the tragic situations in Tibet. The Tibetans residing in Kochi organised a one-day fast in front of the Kerala High Court. However nobody cared much. After all who are the Tibetans? It is as Tenzin Tsundue had mentioned in his poem — nobody is bothered about the Tibetan identity.

Are we too like that? Butter lamps are offered in Tibetan temples as part of their prayers. Are we avoiding the Tibetans burning themselves as butter lamps at the alters of human consciousness and basic human rights? Are we not the 'largest democratic nation' or are we just the 'largest nation of the heartless'? Its time we stopped speculating and started thinking for possible answers. If not we too are responsible for the sacrifice of the Tibetans.

Appu Jacob John is a Friends of Tibet Campaigner and writer based at Kottayam, Kerala. He can be reached at

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