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Century of a loathsome kind

avatarBy Vijay Kranti
Friday, Feb 1, 2013
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At the time of writing this write up, a century of a very different kind — sadly a loathsome kind, is imminent and approaching. It might even approach before this write up goes online or into print. In a world where a century of runs or goals by some popular star player or a famous personality completing his/her hundred years is an obvious reason to rejoice nationally or internationally, good chances are that the news of the hundredth self immolation by a protesting Tibetan youth in some town of Chinese occupied Tibet too is received with as much indifference as happened in most of earlier 99 cases since 2009.

These 99 Tibetans, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, have committed self-immolation to protest against the ongoing colonial rule of China over their motherland Tibet since 1951. Hardly a month passed when at least one Tibetan, engulfed in flames like a fire ball, was not reported running in a street of Tibet and shouting slogans demanding freedom for Tibet from China or calling for Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet. Last November saw a peak of 28 self-immolations when a new set of Chinese communist leaders took over the reins. Over 80 of these self-immolators are already confirmed dead.

An analysis of details filtering out about the self-immolators from across the iron wall of Chinese news and propaganda machinery reveals that their average age is 24. More than half of them are monks, nuns and nomads, the three groups which have been at the focus of a new regimentation campaign of the Chinese authorities in the past decade. Monasteries have witnessed stronger police and Communist Party controls, where the monks and nuns are forced to go through ‘Patriotic re-education’ that demands them to condemn Dalai Lama in writing. Just like each resident of the Vatican receiving the daily meal ticket only after he/she has condemned the Pope in writing — or a British citizen allowed to step on the road only after shouting that the Queen is a ‘Traitor of the Great Motherland’.

Similarly, Tibetan nomads, over two million in numbers and a third of pre-occupation Tibetan population, are being forced to quit their traditional way of seasonal migratory living and rearing herds only to settle down in congested matchbox like housing colonies. Reason — they must remain under constant vigil of the Public Security Bureau — the Chinese Gestapo. With no choice to express their frustration, self-immolation appears to have emerged as the only possible choice. Across Tibet.

It sounds strange that in a world where self immolation in Tunisia by one shopkeeper could trigger Jasmine Revolution in over a dozen countries as recently as 2010, or a similar act of a monk in Vietnam or Czechoslovakia could shake the conscience of the world in 1960s, almost hundred self immolations by Tibetans have gone nearly unnoticed in a world known for twitter driven flash mobs.

‘Sincerely Yours’ kind of statements of concern by the Secretary of State in Washington (DC), the ceremonial European Parliament, the head of UN Commission for Human Rights or a couple of customary statements by groups like the Amnesty and Human Rights Watch is all that world leadership has so far come out with to confront the colonial masters of dying Tibetans. Not surprising that the Time magazine has judged Tibetan immolations as the least reported event of recent years.

As the number of self immolations by Tibetan youths was fast approaching the hundred mark, an increasingly embarrassed Chinese leadership has been seen going into overdrive to condemn the self-immolators as “Terrorists in Disguise”. On 18th January the government controlled Chinese media announced the detention of seven Tibetans in Gansu province claiming that they were members of the ‘Dalai Clique’ and exile activist group ‘Tibetan Youth Congress’(TYC) who were going to ‘organize’ a self-immolation.

A few months ago the Chinese media prominently published security agencies’ claims that a Tibetan nun had committed self-immolation in Sichuan because she was offered an iPod by an India based member of the ‘Dalai Clique’ for the act. Interestingly, Chinese authorities have yet to announce their first success after they publicly announced a cash award of 50,000 RMB (Rs. 400,000 or US$ 8000) in Gansu on 23rd October, 2009 to anyone who informed police about any planned self-immolation or the identity of planners behind such acts.

While Beijing authorities want the world to believe that these self-immolations are the result of the conspiracy of what they call the ‘Dalai Clique’, a chain of facts associated with these unending unfortunate events would tell a totally different story.

One — every single Tibetan self immolator was a second or third generation Tibetan of post-Dalai Lama era who have never seen Dalai Lama in their life and have been brought up on anti-Dalai propaganda of Chinese Communist Party. Besides a public indictment of China’s policies in Tibet, this spate also challenges Beijing’s claims of converting a ‘feudal’ Tibet of the ‘Dalai Clique’ into a ‘Socialist Heaven’ of the Communist Party.

Two — more than 90 of the 99 self-immolations have occurred in those areas of non-TAR Tibet which China has consistently refused to accept as belonging to ‘Tibet’ of pre-occupation (1951) era. Following reorganization of Tibet in early 1960s most of these areas, forming two thirds of original Tibet were chopped off and distributed to neighbouring Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.

Three — all of these self-immolations have happened in towns where millions of Han Chinese have been systematically settled in recent decades to push back local Tibetans into a meaningless minority in their own homeland. This spate of self-immolations reflects the Tibetan desperation resulting from political oppression, social marginalization, lingual disadvantage, cultural assimilation and environmental destruction.

Four — unlike their fellow freedom fighting community of Muslism Uyghurs of Xinjiang (‘East Turkestan’ until 1949) who slaughtered over 200 Chinese security men and Han settlers in 2009 June, not even one among the 99 Tibetan immolators stabbed, bombed or killed a Chinese in his/her home town before consigning one’s body to flames. That reflects the faith of Dalai Lama’s Tibetans in non-violence.

And Five — this unprecedented spate of a of self-immolations in Tibet in the known human history has also reassured the Dalai Lama and his colleagues in exile who, fearing that Tibetans might lose their national identity amidst an overwhelming flood of Han settlers, have been desperate to find an immediate solution to Tibetan problem — even at the cost of permanently surrendering Tibet’s right to live as a free, independent country.

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