In the Oxford dictionary, the term refugee is defined as ‘a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.’
A national tragedy of the scope and scale experienced in Tibet during the last fifty years is in danger of becoming a dual fold disaster- first; death, trauma, destitution, exile and so on. The second though not so direct posses a higher degree of destruction- the death of the memory of Tibet and its national identity.
Tibet is one of the largest countries in Asia and also one of the emptiest. With an average height of over 15,000 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest countries in the world. Tibet occupied 1.2 million sq km of land sandwiched between India and China. Traditionally, the country Tibet included areas to the west such as Ladakh and huge kingdoms and tribal territories to the east and Northeast of China, inhabited mainly by people of Tibetans actually lived. The snow-clad mountains are the source of the greatest rivers of Asia. The Indus, Brahmaputra and Sutlej originate from Western Tibet. Major rivers of South and Southeast Asia originate from eastern and North-eastern Tibet such as the Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. The population of Tibet is about six million spread over three provinces of Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang (Central Tibet). Most Tibetans earned their livelihood as farmers, nomads and semi-nomads.
After World War II and the founding of Communist China, They began their age-old claim of Tibet as being a part of ‘the motherland’. However, Tibetans differ from the Chinese both physically and culturally. Tibetans have sharper features and are less oriental, the spoken language is not directly related to the Chinese and their script is derived from medieval Sanskrit.
Historically, Tibet was ruled by Kings, chieftains and even Muslim warlords. Tibet first began a Buddhist country in 779 A.D and the first Dalai Lama Gendun Drup was born in 1391 A.D.
China became the People’s Republic of China in October 1949 and the Chinese army marched into Eastern Tibet. The People’s Republic of China attacked Chamdo, Eastern Tibet’s provincial capital in October 1950.The occupation that followed resulted in actions that lead to wiping out the Tibetan identity and traditional way of life.
More than a million Tibetans died as a result of the occupation, victims of fighting, hunger, executions and labour camps. Spiritual and material artefacts were stolen, burned, destroyed. Tibet’s natural resources are being destroyed and misused. Resettlement of Han Chinese in Tibet has led to Tibetans becoming a minority in their own country.
After a series of failed negotiations with the Chinese, on March 1959, a national uprising broke out in Lhasa, resulting in the death of thousands of Tibetans. His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso was forced to flee Tibet in fear of capture and execution and seek asylum in India. Subsequently, the escape of Dalai Lama from Tibet gave the Chinese the opportunity for a full-scale invasion and occupation of Tibet by People’s Republic of China army and Chinese citizens. This led to the downfall and undermining of Tibetan culture. The worst came during the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong’s reign from
June 1969 up till September 1976 leading to the destruction of over 6000 religious institutions and thousands of deaths.
Since its occupation of Tibet, People’s Republic of China has destroyed over 6,000 monasteries and religious institutions. Ancient scriptures, images and sculptures were destroyed, melted or sold in international markets. The physical and psychological torture the Tibetans experienced in the hands of the People’s Republic of China during interrogations and imprisonment of beyond comprehension. According to reports gathered by the Tibetan government in exile, about 1.2 million Tibetans have died directly as a result of Chinese torture.
It has been reported that the Chinese government has seized the pasture lands of the nomadic tribes of Tibet, who had grazed those lands for generations and put them in concentration camps. Apart from destroying Tibet’s distinctive religion and culture, the settlement of Chinese settlers in Tibet has put pressure on the Tibetan livelihood. There are heavy taxes put on Tibetan businessmen and fixed prices on Tibetan farmers and handicrafts produced by Tibetan artisans.
With knowledge of Chinese language being a must in order to procure a job, the native Tibetans are unable to get jobs under Chinese rule leading to alcoholism, drug addiction and destitution among the Tibetans living in the concentration camps.
Ever since the People’s Republic of China occupied Tibet there has been a severe violation of human rights such as forced sterilisation, suppression, lack religious freedom and much more. One of the main objectives of the Chinese Government has been to degrade and remove the roots of Tibetan culture from
among the Tibetans. In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, The People’s Republic of China plundered, looted and destroyed the symbols that distinguished the country from the rest of the world and gave the Tibetans their identity-the monasteries and their religious artefacts.
The Chinese Government conducts extensive “patriotic re-education”- whereby monks and nuns are forced to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party. Resistance to these campaigns is met with arrest, imprisonment, torture and expulsion from monasteries and nunneries.
Tibetans in Tibet are facing repression, intimidation, political repression, economic marginalisation, cultural assimilation and destruction of the environment that they had preserved for centuries. It is undeniable that a large number of Tibetan children are destitute or semi-orphans.
One of the heaviest blows to the Tibetan community under Chinese rule has been their language which they are prohibited to use. All school students are taught Han Chinese and anyone caught speaking or teaching the Tibetan language is severely punished. This is an also one of the many reasons that parents send away their children to India so that they can learn Tibetan without fear of prosecution.
The first Tibetan children were enrolled in newly constructed schools in Mussoorie funded by donors. The existing schools were not able to keep up with the sudden influx of a large number of children. All the schools are affiliated to CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education). The education system of these schools’ emphasis on striking a balance between modern education and culture and traditions of the Tibetan community.
The Tibetan community is being slowly Sinicized, with their religious practice, culture and people slowly fading away in the pages of history.
After the arrival of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India in 18th April 1959, there has been a small but regular flow of Tibetan refugees in India. Eventually, the small flow of Tibetans turned into a mass exodus from Tibet. Many of them died on their way due to the harsh terrain and exhaustion due to the peril of the journey and much more died as a result of Chinese attacks. Two large transit camps were established in Missamari and Buxa in West Bengal to handle the influx of refugees into the country. Consequently, a number of transit camps like Bulkpong, Tuting, Sandeo/Bhakawa, and Tak Menthang were also established. To earn a livelihood the majority of the Tibetan refugees worked as labourers in road construction in the hilly areas of Shimla, Chamba, Kullu and Kangra. Many of them also worked as road labourers in Nepal, Bhutan and Ladakh. Many Tibetans lost their lives in the process due to the dangers present in their work. Road construction was very dangerous in many places as construction was going on in the steep cliffs and difficult terrain.
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama had requested the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to give them a place to settle permanently so that the Tibetans can have a solid foundation to preserve their culture. Prime Minister Nehru enquired about the availability of land through state governments for the purpose of resettlement. The Karnataka State Government (then known as Mysore) agreed to lease 3,000 acres of land.
In the second week of December 1960, the first group of Tibetan Refugees were sent to from Shimla, Kullu, Chamaba and Dalhousie to Bylakuppe, Mysore. In February 1962, the first camp houses were completed and people moved into
them from their temporary huts. The settlement was named Lugsum SamdupLing settlement by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Thousands of second and third generation refugee children are estranged from their home country and are subject to an identity crisis as they struggle to keep their cultural traditions alive as well as adapt and adopt the Indian culture. Moreover, they also carry the huge responsibility to keep their freedom struggle alive among their kin as they carry about their daily lives in exile.
The researcher will conduct her research in the Lungsum Samdup Ling settlement in Bylakkuppe, Mysore and will interact with the inhabitants of the settlement to understand the psycho-social and economic problems faced by the Tibetan Refugees in Baylakuppe, Mysore.
October 7, 1959, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet in order to incorporate into mainland China. Since then, more than a million Tibetans are believed to have died as a result of the Chinese invasion- either directly (killings in the hands of the People’s Republic Of China Army) or indirectly (starvation, death in prisons, and so on.).
Buddhism, the backbone of Tibetan culture is undermined and uprooted for Chinese Communism. Any activity or symbols that represent the Tibetan culture has been removed to the point that even having a picture of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama is punishable.
Tears of Blood- A Cry for blood
Author’s Name: Mary Craig
Publishing Date: September 22, 2000
In this book, the author talks about the history of Tibet and how the Chinese have slowly invaded and changed the country. When China claimed power over this tiny mountain nation, more than one million Tibetans are believed to have perished by starvation, execution, imprisonment, and abortive uprisings. Many thousands more, including their spiritual and political leader, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, have been driven into exile. The country has been systematically colonized so that indigenous inhabitants are now a second-class minority. Not only are Tibetans being squeezed out by Chinese settlers, but there are reports of Tibetan women being forcibly sterilized and of healthy full-term babies being killed at birth. Thousands of Tibetans languish in prison and suffer appalling torture. Rich mineral resources have been plundered and the delicate ecosystem devastated. Buddhism, the lifeblood of Tibet, has been ruthlessly suppressed. Mary Craig tells the story of Tibet with candour and power. Based upon extensive research and interviews with large numbers of refugees now living in exile in India, this book presents four decades of religious persecution, environmental devastation, and human atrocities that have caused Tibetans to weep “tears of blood.” (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/815821.Tears_of_Blood)(Tears of Blood- A Cry for blood by Mary Craig)(acc- 1/10/2017)(First published on 1999).
In the book, author Mary Craig talks about the horrific ordeals faced by Tibetans detailing military attacks, massacres, killings, detentions, tortures, rapes, demolition of Tibetan artefacts and property, confiscation of private land and property owned by Tibetans, mass disappearances of civilians. The book represents the first-hand experiences of Tibetan refugees who have escaped from Chinese torture and those who have seen and experienced harsh life under Chinese rule. The invasion of Tibet has been crude, cruel and brutal. This book gives a clear representation of the atrocities that have been inflicted on the Tibetans in the name of liberation under Chinese rule. 1.5 million individuals and about 1/5th of the entire indigenous Tibetan population has been annihilated.
There has been mass suppression of ideals and ideologies that differ from Chinese communist regime. The Cultural Revolution has all but wiped out the existence of the traditional Tibetan Buddhist values and traditions leaving behind in its wake a hollow shadow of its former glory.
Lives in Exile: Exploring the Inner World of Tibetan Refugees
Author’s Name: Honey Oberoi Vahali
Publisher: Routledge India; 1 edition
Publishing Date: March 9, 2009
The book recounts the life stories – stories of loss and hope, of anxieties and aspirations – of generations of exiled Tibetans living in India since the late 1950s after the Chinese takeover of Tibet.
Located in the realm of psycho-historical analysis, this work has a dual focus on interpreting and analysing these life stories. First, a consistent effort is made to unravel the psychologically devastating consequences following refugeehood and torture. A simultaneous focus searches for symbols of human resilience – the opening up of creative possibilities and a return to renewed meanings in the lives of these exiles. Two central symbols of continuity among this community which are discussed are the Dalai Lama and the philosophy of Buddhism. This is a unique book that looks at issues of contemporary interest and relevance to the Tibetan community today, providing a different view of their ‘place’ in the wider political sphere. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6631940-lives-in-exile)(Lives in Exile: Exploring the Inner World of Tibetan Refugees- by Honey Oberoi) (acc- 1/10/2107) (First published on 2009)
The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong
Author’s Name: Gyalo Thondup & Anne F. Thurston
Publisher: Random House, India
Publishing Date: 2015
The author recounts the contradictory twists and turns in the desperate last-ditch efforts by Tibet to survive as a culture and people. The story is told by Gyalo Thondup, the older brother of the Dalai Lama and a key figure in the Tibetan struggle. The story covers the three major phases of the struggle: armed resistance to Chinese rule, raising the issue of Tibet at the UN, and compromise and dialogue with Beijing. In each of these turns in policy, Gyalo Thondup played a major role. His account of the Tibetan struggle is a welcome contribution to the growing body of Tibetan resistance literature and on the CIA’s involvement.
Some of the backgrounds to the events he recounts has never been told before. Gyalo Thondup’s perspective on the hide-and-seek Tibet briefly played with the CIA will remain the authoritative Tibetan account of this episode of the Tibetan struggle.
The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong recounts the far end of the Great Game in its new avatar as the Cold War. The players have changed but the geopolitical goal remained the same: imperial expansion and efforts to thwart it. Tibet was a natural target of the ambitions of the great powers because of its massive geographic weight and size. Thrusting almost three miles into the sky and covering an area of 2.5 million square kilometres and ringed on three sides by the highest mountain ranges in the world, the Tibetan plateau constituted, in those days, the most effective defence anywhere in the world.
In Lhasa, the British found no evidence of Russian influence but one unintended consequence of the invasion was to alert Manchu China to the possibility of an invasion of the mainland through what it considered its backyard. To ward off such an event, Manchu troops marched to Lhasa in 1910 to make China’s presence in Tibet permanent.
However, the Manchu dynasty was overthrown in 1911 and the Tibetan government sent packing the Manchu troops stationed in Lhasa. But a united and resurgent communist China made good Manchu China’s claims on Tibet when it invaded the country in 1949-1950. Gyalo Thondup narrates the genesis of Tibetan resistance to the invasion and the efforts he and his team made to galvanize international support. This new game Tibet was caught up in was called the Cold War, the contest for influence between the capitalist and socialist camps.
With the fall of Tibet, the resistance with 2000 new recruits relocated itself to Mustang in Nepal. But that pocket of Tibetan resistance too crumbled when the US allied itself with China to confront the Soviet menace. The rapprochement between America and China also created the political climate for China to initiate a round of discussions with the representatives of the Dalai Lama. The responsibility for conducting these discussions fell on Gyalo Thondup, who was invited to Beijing to meet Deng Xiaoping. According to Thondup, Deng came straight to the point. “No future leader could ever be able to negotiate an independent Tibet. But except independence, everything is negotiable. Everything can be discussed. This is what I want to raise with you today. This is what I want to discuss with you.”
Gyalo Thondup’s story is gripping and told with flair. Its value is enhanced by his personal insights into the character of the giants of the twentieth century, The Dalai Lama had arrived in India with only his bare hands – no army, no money, and no territory, but he had achieved so much, singlehandedly establishing him on the international stage, becoming a leading figure in India and the world. The only blemish in an otherwise great story is when Gyalo Thondup turns his gaze from China to Tibetan society to make wild accusations. These accusations seem petty and distract from his struggle for Tibet for which he gave his active life. ( http://www.hindustantimes.com/books/book-review-the-noodle-maker-of-kalimpong-is-gripping/story-wX54imrkjkYtHFWYBYyJSO.html) (The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong- Gyalo Thondup)(acc on 1/10/2017)(published on 8 June 2015)