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Tibetan self-immolates in Kathmandu

August 12, 2013

by Shambhu Kattel

August 7, 2013 - A Tibetan died of self-immolation at Boudhha Stupa in the Nepalese capital after he doused himself with kerosene. Karma Nyidon Gyatso, who was differently-abled, was 40.

The Bouddha Stupa, listed as a World Heritage Site, is considered safe and, from a religious point of view, a sensitive one. The incident took place at a time when the Chinese officials have been expressing concerns about the anti-China activities taking place on the Nepalese soil.

According to documents recovered by the police, Gyatso is a resident of Damshung Dzong in Lhasa. It is believed that he entered Kathmandu three or four months back. A source claimed that he self-immolated himself demanding an independent Tibet.

Karma has crawled to the stupa at 07:00 [0115 GMT] and had paid 1,500 Nepali rupees [$15] to a woman to light butter lamps at the chyoime [a stand where lamps are lighted] under the Boudha Tamang Welfare Trust to light the lamps.

A Tibetan woman who struggled to speak Nepali had helped him. After lighting the lamps, Karma crawled to a corner, doused himself with kerosene and immolated self.

After seeing him burning, a foreign woman got nervous after which the local residents and businessmen rushed to put off the fire. "With the help of the fire extinguisher, we put off the fire," said Krishna Sewa, who was putting fresh paints on the stupa. "We tried to save him but could not."

Gyatso was immediately rushed to the Om Hospital in Chabhill. Since he could not be treated there, he was taken to the TU Teaching Hospital but died on way to the hospital, the police said. Postmortem was completed the same day.

Police said that Gyatso was disabled below the waist. He hardly spoke Nepali. According to a CCTV footage installed at the stupa, he was rushed to the hospital at 07:38 [0153 GMT].

According to an eye witness, when Karma was engulfed in flames, about three or four persons had taken photographs from their iPhones. However, they had fled the scene before the police arrived. Eyewitnesses said none of them were seen in the area before. Such a suspicious activity also lends credence to the speculation that the Tibetan immolated self for political motives.

The immolation on the day of ausi [new moon day] is considered meaningful. Both new moon day and full moon day are considered of special importance by the Buddhist followers. "Whether he immolated self for political motives or not is under investigation," said DSP [deputy superintendent of police] Manoj KC of the Metropolitan Police Office at Bouddha. He said that it was also possible that he may have done so because of being fed up with life as he was differently abled.

According to the police, looking at the getup, Gyatso seemed to be a member of the Gyalukpa community and a disciple of the Dalai Lama. A source said: "If this was part of the anti-China activities, he should have immolated at the open road. Why the deceased chose an isolated place for immolating himself is surprising."

Soon after receiving the information, a team led by Bijaylal Kayastha, chief of the Metropolitan Crime Investigation Division, arrived at the stupa and made inquiry with the eyewitnesses. The residents of Bouddha, however, have expressed sorrow for the incident. They said the incident at as sacred a place as the stupa had left them in shock.

On 13 February also a Tibetan refugee had immolated himself at a road at Bouddha chanting slogans for the Tibetan independence. It has already been confirmed that the Tibetan has come from India to commit suicide in Nepal.

Two Tibetans Arrested

In Gorkha, the Ilaka Police Office at Arughat has arrested two Tibetans who were attempting to get into Tibet through the Chhekampar transit. Tenzing, 24, and his wife Pema, 22, were arrested on the evening of 5 August. "They had come from Bouddha in Kathmandu to Dhadingbesi and to Arughat," Police Inspector Pusha Kamal Shrestha said. "Following inquiry, we found them to be Tibetans. We arrested them after we found neither passport nor visa nor any other documents." Both have been sent to the Immigration Department.

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