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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."

The identity crisis facing Tibetan refugees

September 1, 2008

IANS
August 30th, 2008

New Delhi, Aug 30 (IANS) What is the place of Tibetans in our
society? Are they just refugees, or have they taken on an Indian
identity after having lived the Indian way for over three decades? A
documentary titled "Tribute to Life - memoir of a lost land" answers
all.The documentary was screened at the inaugural ceremony on Aug 28
at the Jeevika South Asia Documentary Film Festival 2008 which is on
till Aug 31 at the India Habitat Centre here.

Neal Karthik, the director of the film, told IANS: "When I was
preparing a proposal for Centre for Civil Society (CCS) - the
producer of the film, I already knew one of the protagonists in my
film - Amma, an 85-year-old Tibetan refugee. She does not speak; she
seems to have been silenced by the trauma of losing her dear ones and
her land."

In his opening address for the festival, Parth Shah, president of
CCS, said: "Tibetans face critical challenges to adapt themselves to
new cultures and face challenges in earning their day-to-day livelihood."

"The objectives of the festival are to document livelihood
challenges, and bring it to the attention of the public, media and
policy makers." Shah added.

When questioned as to what challenges he faced while documenting the
life of the refugees, Karthik said: "I visited the Tibetan
settlements time and again before a month of research but found that
Tibetans were apprehensive of outsiders and shy to face the camera;
the impact of the political tension and police pressure was apparent."

"Amidst this I came across my second protagonist Pasang, a women in
her seventies, who owned a roadside tea shop. She was excited to
share her sentiments about the ongoing struggle for Tibetans and her
journey to make her life in India." he added.

The film tracks the history of the Tibetan issue with archival
footage of the displacement and welcome of refugees in India - with
voiceover from veteran theatre artiste Tom Alter. The film identified
two refugees, Amma and Pasang, who live in the Tibetan settlement
Majnu ka Tila in north Delhi.

Highlighting the anguish of having been forced to leave their land
and make their way through life as refugees in an unknown land, the
film also explores the relevance of the Buddhist philosophy which
supports Tibetan refugees through trying times.

There are an estimated 600,000 Tibetan refugees in India, who fled
their homeland in 1959 after Chinese troops crushed their uprising.
Tibetans have settled in Delhi, Bangalore and several places, but
their main centre is in the Himalayan resort of Dharamsala, the home
of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Karthik felt that at the outset the Tibetan refugees he interacted
with in the course of his research expressed "a desire to rush back
home". On further probing their minds, they all seemed to have
reconciled to their fate as refugees.

The film has recently been awarded the first position at the Full
Marx Short Film Fest-MICA India and was previously screened at the
Quebec International Film Festival and the San Marino International
Film Festival as well.

Tempa Tsering, official representative of the Dalai Lama and the
chief guest at the screening of the film, said: "The issue of the
Tibetans who have taken on the identity of refugees across the world
is a social and economic challenge, but only has a political solution."
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