I wonder why some international human rights and pro-Tibetan groups are so directionless in criticizing Beijing’s policies and programmes in Tibet and campaigning for Tibetan independence . Their main argument for independence goes that ever since the Chinese forces entered into Tibet, Beijing has been practicing a kind of cultural genocide in the plateau– obliterating its ideas, traditions and habits . During the Communist Cultural Revolution in the 1960s the gangs of the Red Guards destroyed almost all Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and killed or dispersed its 90 per cent of the monks . Afterwards, Beijing has been flooding the plateau with Chinese immigrants. This has changed the demography of Lhasa to almost 60 per cent Chinese ethnicity . The pro-independence lobbies allege there is severe discrimination against the Tibetans in education and employment . In schools Chinese is taught as the “mother tongue. ” Tibetan is relegated to the background. The Chinese get high salary jobs in the region . Tibetans get just some crumbs .
After having visited Tibet as part of a mixed media delegation from India, Nepal and Bhutan the other day, I would say there is little wisdom in harping on the past mistakes of a nation or an individual. We have to plan for future on the basis of our present realities . Viewed from this angle , I find few states in the world today could be said to have done as much for their minorities as China has for its own, Tibetans in the present case . During my sojourn in the Tibet Autonomous Region I happen to visit many important places , including a few farm families of the Konka county, a handicraft workshop and famous Shannan Hospital in Naidong county, the construction venue of Lhasa-Nyingchi highway , the Potala Palace and Museum, and the Dadan Minguir Palace ( His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace).
I find that like in India and Israel , there is no denial of freedom to practise one’s religion anywhere in the TAR too . Tibetan Buddhism is flourishing. The popular Shoton festival is attended by , according to an estimate, as many as 30,000 visitors . The Potala Palace, the Summer Palace and Jokhang Temple are all well maintained . Thousands of Tibetans stream in the Summer Palace everyday. Their devotion is to be seen in its prayer hall where they come to pay their obeisance to him offering scarves, currency notes and pray for his return to Tibet. I ( and other members of the delegation) chance to meet in the prayer hall a Tibetan lady . She can barely utter a few words in Hindi. But she says well enough . Asked about the current Dalai Lama, she just smiles and wishes, “ May he remain safe and sound wherever he is !” I see inside the summer palace the objects dating back to 1959 . In its study room there are the Dalai Lama’s sofa, a reading table and his books . In the Dalai’s once favourite room there is a small bed with a large radio gifted to him by then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Knowledgeable sources say Beijing has moved far beyond those dark days of its Cultural Revolution. For decades the Chinese government did keep the Tibetan Autonomous Region off limits to outsiders. But no more so . The authorities in Beijing have long withdrawn their totalitarian commandments from the temples and monasteries. Most of the temples and monasteries destroyed during the Revolution have already been rebuilt in their original places only . China is an ancient civilization . It believes in respecting the age-old traditions of all its ethnicities .
About the Author: Jagdish N. Singh is an Indian journalist based in New Delhi.
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