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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Opinion: Changing face of Tibetan Democracy

August 20, 2010

Tenzin Nyinjey
August 16, 2010

I have never voted in my life. Be it Chitue or
Katri elections, I never had the urge to vote.
It's not because I don't care about our struggle,
our fledgling democracy. It's because I never saw
any relevance whether I vote or not. In other
words, I never found the deserving candidate who
can give me the pride to call him/her my leader
or savior - someone who can inspire and give me
the occasional joys and laughter, that emotional
and moral boost which lifts us out of our current
political mess and help us reach the final
destination of a free and independent Tibet.

Yes, frankly speaking, Chitues (Tibetan
parliamentarians), by and large, have never
inspired me in life. I have always found them
parochial, sectarian, fighting out for their own
cholkhas and cholugs (provinces and religious
sects), for their own vested interests. Worst of
all, I have found them ignorant and totally out
of touch with the masses. Apart from His Holiness
the Dalai Lama, the only 'leader' that inspired
me once was Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, with his
elocution and rhetoric. His enormous knowledge of
Tibetan Buddhism and Sanskrit was something that
gave me pride in a world that has deprived much
of my dignity and honor as a Tibetan.

However, I didn't vote for him. I didn't have the
slightest interest to participate in his
elections. I never participated in any kind of
fiery debates on his chances of getting elected
or re-elected to the post of Kalon Tripa. This is
not because I don't endorse him as a Tibetan
leader or I don't respect him. The primary reason
is there was no potential candidate who could
challenge him and make the elections interesting
and worthwhile to him, to us and to our young democracy.

It was obvious to everyone that he would win by a
landslide majority. So, in a way, my abstention
was a sort of boycott against this pathetic and
lifeless Tibetan democracy, in which a candidate
won the highest political office with almost
ninety percent of total votes cast, something
which occured only in Iraq under Saddam and North Korea.

Many people celebrated this as a triumph of
Tibetan democracy, saying a candidate secured
almost ninety percent of votes in the history of
democratic elections the world over. To me, it
was an embarrassment. It made me cringe in shame
and anger, because I know that real democracy is
not simply about elections, but choices,
alternatives, debates, which are possible only
when we have, at the least, two potential
candidates vying equally for the highest post.

However, I see a wave, for the first time. For
the first time, I see light. For the first time,
things are changing. For the first time, I have
registered to vote for the elections. Yes, for
the first time I am voting for the Katri
elections. For the first time, many young
Tibetans, till now alienated due to the
conservative and patronising nature of the
Tibetan leadership, are charged up and doing
everything they can, whether it is launching a
website, participating in Katri debates, or just
engaging in casual chats in chai dukans (tea
shops), to make sure they give their voices to
our democracy by voting in the upcoming Katri elections.

To me, this is the dawn of a new era - the
beginning of a revolution, nurtured by the
Tibetan spirit that never gives up on its hopes
even in the most trying of situations. This is a
revolution led by a younger generation of
Tibetans, bred and educated in exile by the exile
Tibetan government in the last fifty odd years.
For the first time, we are reaping the harvest of
democracy planted fifty years ago, when His
Holiness stepped on the borders of India, fleeing
the Chinese communist occupation of Tibet.

For the first time, the vision and dream of our
leader is coming alive! What's more, this dream
of democracy, liberty, equality and fraternity is
being realized without any bloodshed, without any
chopping off heads among ourselves. It's being
realized through sheer hard work, intelligence,
sacrifice, dialogue; in short through humane way,
something no country has ever achieved to do so in this world.

This feat is but a testimony of Tibetan spirit,
of our extremely violent yet non violent culture,
a symbol of which is the self-immolation of Pawo
Thupten Ngodup, who, despite in full blaze, could
fold his hands in a gesture of peace and
non-violence, demanding freedom and justice - a
glorious act of defiance perhaps only a Tibetan can perform.

Yes, for the first time we are proving to the
world and ourselves that we deserve the democracy
granted to us by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. For
the first time we firmly believe that we can run
our own country, not just run but run
successfully, creatively and democratically. For
the first time we are proving that we have it in
us to create not only an independent Tibet, but a
free and independent Tibet, where all religious
traditions will be respected, where every kind of
people - men, women, gays, lesbians, atheists -
will be welcomed to share the joys of happiness and freedom.

Yes, the seeds of Tibetan independence have
finally sprouted. From here, its not a question
of how, but when this sprout will bloom into a
tree and finally bear its rich fruits that we can
relish with our long separated fellow brothers and sisters in Tibet.

Yes, finally the tables are starting to turn.
Yes, finally revolution has knocked our doors -
revolution which is no longer a whisper, but a
melody, a symphony that is tuning in the hearts
of every Tibetan, both in and outside of Tibet!
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