By Mila Rangzen
Things are happening in Tibet today that rip my heart apart. Independencelessness has always been one of them. Back in 1985 at Bodhgaya, we were reassured by the Dalai Lama that the dawn of independence had arrived and that the sunrise of independence was a matter of minutes.
32 years later today we find neither the dawn nor the sunrise of independence. Both eluded us somehow. Instead what we witness in Tibet is Chinese armed police striking spiked batons on innocent selfless self-immolators, crackdowns on peaceful protesters and torturous death for the political prisoners who all screamed for independence in unison.
What’s even worse, unfortunately, is we don’t find any bit of initiative on the part of Kashag or Chithue to restore in the exile charter or resolutions the goal of independence that would send a pertinent mother of all message to the Chinese government. Not a word on rethinking the policy of middle way. Why are they dead silent about any need for changes?
Like you the reader I am equally sick and tired of what seems a word spat on independence and middle way policy. However, we must realize that the struggle for independence is not a trend that comes and goes. It is a position we must defend on two fronts–CCP and CTA as long as it is necessary. And also work on launching an effective non-violent offensive campaign against the policies of both which could lead to some light at the end of a tunnel.
Instead of reviewing the policy of middle way, insinuations pour out from Dharamsala that the Tibetan youth are somewhat violent and that Sikyong Sangay would not negotiate the values of nonviolence and democracy. When China-the enemy accuses us of being violent, it’s one thing but when our own CTA implies us being so, it’s disturbing, to say the least.
Let us not do this rabbit sky fall worry about exile Tibetans going violent because we are simply lacking courage or incapable of long-term calculating political violence that needed to be started from scratch with help from none, what we are absolutely capable of is cheap temperamental disco fights at parties where couples come to have a good time. Yes, on the state of our quasi-democracy, we shall go beyond what’s often discussed in thesis or everyday conversations.
And when we do lead, I hope we can count on those who taught us how important it is that somebody leads so others may follow that finally, Tibetan people not only have $10 million Mercedes of democracy but also the key-the party system. I hope both the cabinet and the parliament will be happy to support this revolutionary constitutional change. Yes, there are some cons on this issue but they can be taken care of to the democratic satisfaction of the Tibetan world. This 2700-year-old Athen or Greek democracy is great in many ways but we don’t have to copy all. We can always improvise to suit our needs while at the same time not compromising on systematic support to individual aspirations that party system can avail.
Admit it or not Tibetans in Tibet are outnumbered by Chinese in almost every town with a ratio of almost 3 to 1 and the country as a whole with the ratio of almost 2 to 1 which is itself a shocking ratio, 12 million Chinese colonists against 6 million Tibetans–far above what was then the 1974 post-guerilla campaign average of 300,000 Chinese mostly settled along the eastern borders with 1/2 of them were probably troops stationed in the Himalayan border. Since the Chinese statistics on anything Tibet is unreliable, and until independent surveys are allowed I use common sense which is not so common these days.
Even if the Chinese population inside rose from 7.5 million in 1990 to 12 million now the entire fault lies with middle way policy of appeasement that made no attempt to prevent the Chinese population transfer policy as it has always been worried it could upset the happiness of Chinese colonizers! For example, the title of the head of the CTA which in essence is Tibetan Government in Exile is recently changed from Prime Minister to President. Killing the political overtone of the title is to reduce Tibetan political issue to one of the internal affairs of China. You can be the president of a country or a taxi union but you cannot become the Prime Minister of a taxi union. You become the Prime Minister of a nation in exile. No wonder we need the separation of religion and state.
If only the Dalai Lama had been right, for he proceeded to abandon our independence struggle in 1987 for his “genuine autonomy” and yet its success rate has only remained a nice pipe dream. At the moment that I am writing—“TGIE” is thirty two years into chasing the rainbow of autonomy —self immolations and other forms of life sacrifices inside and outside Tibet have crossed over a thousand where Tibetans have given up the hope of living for oneself but have taken the courageous route to dying so others may live in independence.
These numbers are not mere abstractions. They represent suffering and hardship on a grand scale. From 2008 alone we witnessed so many young people whose lives have been devastated by the continuing occupation. The past four years encountered defiance and Tibetan ingenuity in the face of adversity. But it also encountered anguish and tragedy.
With rising crackdowns compounding the strains of a marginalized people, a great many Tibetans are struggling just to survive the onslaughts on their soil under foreign siege. Thousands of families have been lost to torture, prison, and death. If you have eyes then you’ve seen far too much hopelessness in autonomy while too many dreams inside Tibet for independence need to be supported by our government in concrete actions.
Many lost a family member or a limb of a relative to the undeclared martial law including everything that they had saved a lifetime to build. If you have the guts to confront the truth and not be unduly touchy then you have also seen the fierce moral timidity at Dharamsala, and the politicians who lack the moral courage to stand up against the legacy of wishful autonomy that led us into hellholes and who now seem unable to find an exit.
The anger is justified. Things don’t have to be this way. I believe Tibet can do better. But we can’t do with a band-aid solution. Just the semi-democracy alone won’t do. A mere victory of some election seats for a handful of Rangzen activists alone would not carry far enough. What we need is an open brain surgery. People need to be freed systematically from captive mentality.
That’s why I am calling for reformation of our political system in my next piece followed by the founding of Rangzen Party, an awareness campaign in major settlements in India, petition, demands and conditions, timeframe, demonstration, and hunger strike unto death, self-immolations and many more. It’s time to descend from the comfort of essays, speeches and poetry (these are great work indeed) to the concrete Gangkyi Square. Are you there?
Simultaneously, activism must target CCP designs. In 1969, the year I was born, Chinese population inside Tibet was 4 percent. In 1987, when I turned 18, it was 50 percent. Today Tibetan population stands at only 40 percent. The answer to the Socratic why is our policy that lacked any determination to have had any teeth. Instead, it glorified and it still does in dashing our collective forehead down the slope to the concrete threshold of the so-called great hall of China as a triumph!
However, let’s not forget all the acknowledgment of world historians particularly by the ancient Chinese and Persian records of the Tsenpo era in history when our imperial greatness was galloping along at high speed, creating the pride that made our country one of the military powers in the history of Asia. We’ve done things right in the past. We did not kill women and children in wars like Genghis Khan, not a Muslim, did 500 years later in the 13th century to the Chinese, the Persians and to many other peoples around the globe in his divine quest for world domination.
We taught the bad guys a lesson to the extent that they realized it was in their best interest to hold any urges for aggression within their own borders. We can do things right once again. We have recovered from invasions before. Indeed, the Tibetan independence spirit has repeatedly proved to be extraordinarily resilient especially inside Tibet. After we hit rough road, as in the early years of 20th century, the independence came roaring back in 1913 with a leader like Tsarong, a common man from Phenpo who rose through the ranks of Kudrak and proved the best general by not only ensuring a safe passage to India for the 13th Dalai Lama and his entourage in 1910 from the Chinese troops in hot pursuit but also kicking every Chinese rear out of the country.
But we’ve now gone through sixty-eight consecutive years without independence. That’s the longest such spell in our entire two millennia recorded history, and the end is not in sight. With the development of arms and technology that the Chinese possess, Tibet today is facing a far more sorry condition than from those in place in the early 20th century when communication and transportation were snail-paced. Hope for autonomy is simply not there. With things so excruciatingly painful this time around, it is worth inquiring why autonomy is impossible and more importantly why we often stick our head out right under a dangling sword made in China.
A big part of the answer has to do with the change in the political direction which has thrown us into the abyss of hopelessness. Badly misguided policies swinging between safeties and hopes with almost zero action in time made the invasion a piece of cake for the Chinese. Such policy has acted as a severe drag on the growth of independence. We can count here the binge of autonomy and appeasement that has lost our confidence about the creditworthiness of the middle way policy that led to an unprecedented downgrade of our people’s political vision.
We can also count the vast expansion of costly moves that undermine our independence struggle. When the price of independence struggle rises, it does not come as a surprise that many in exile wonder what good it would do if our leadership is hell-bent on dragging us and our future generations to a hell of autonomy from where there is no return, that is if it ever happens and it will not, but meanwhile in its deluded state of mind, CTA or “TGIE” continues to pour our national resources however limited it might be in to a giant septic tank.
In addition to the administration’s blunders are its missed opportunities—paths not taken that should have been taken. We have been sleepwalking through a period of extraordinary loss of political vision. In so many decades, from remaining indifferent to the first Chinese attack in north east in 1949 to surrendering sovereignty in 1951 to refusing to arm the 6 million civilians, from refusing to seek US military help in 1957 or even earlier to sitting, waiting and hoping time will take care of the crisis, from abandonment of independence struggle to middle way policy of appeasement, our leadership has only added to the lack of clarity of purpose and the uncertainty of vision that resulted in more than 1.2 million deaths with no dialogue of substance.
This is the downside of having a timid pacifist leadership in a world driven by pure politics and power where hope based on going down on knees and expecting a result from the goodwill of the enemy is not only naïve but pitiable and laughable. There is nothing wrong in hoping per se but it must be based on strengthening our struggle. In terms of feasibility, both are tough since they have to come from the same big evil called China. The most dramatic illustration came in 2011 when both the head of the state and “TGIE’ were dissolved with a single stroke. Appeasement is the enemy of growth, life, and independence. Unfortunately, appeasement has been the hallmark of the middle way policy. It is not that independence doers do not believe in dialogue but we believe it must be done from a position of strength, not weakness.
The fact that China showed some interest in the dialogue in the 70s was due to the militancy in Mustang that was; however small scale it was, posing a threat to the Chinese interests and position. The current mantra of dialogue, understanding and mutual cooperation from Dharamsala is all beautiful words with no legs. It has been practically one-sided and it will remain so for Chinese neither see any reason nor feel any pressure to enter into a serious substantial dialogue.
Nonetheless, they find it useful to carry on the facade of dialogue to ward off occasional international criticism and play for time. Unfortunately, with eyes wide shut, we take it as a victory to play into their hands. Why? If anyone can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the motive of the key figures in “TGIE” is tainted with personal monetary or political interests, do so now with solid evidence and I for one stand behind your position.
As we move forward, a fundamental question before us is the proper role of the “TGIE” in our political life. The Sikyong Sangay appears to believe that “TGIE” can do a lot better job by just creating some international awareness through his year-round travels than actually supporting his people gasping and struggling for independence by initiating the carving of independence in parliamentary resolutions and also of course on the rock of Tibetan charter as the ultimate political goal and travel from there. I disagree. Dharamsala has become an impediment, if not an all-out cahoots with CCP, to the realization of independence. Extracting the overreaching hand of “TGIE” will not be easy. Ignorant, faith-driven and political cronies in “TGIE” will fight every step of the way. But it is not a battle from which we can shrink.
We must restore the independence goal and “TGIE” through a secular bicameral two or multi-party system which, in addition to serving democratic justice to its people, will also help to cripple every Chinese move that is if Rangzen Party wins the elections and runs the government in 2021. “TGIE” has become bloated to the point of embarrassment. It needs to be carried back and redirected. Instead of implying and stifling independence activists as violent, it must encourage the growth of independence movement and the people who give up everything to realize it.
Autonomy is not working. Middle way policy is a failure. The toothless dog middle way has failed miserably to deliver the pork of autonomy on the table. Why? In addition to being toothless, it is chasing an imagined boar in its fanciest dream! No wonder this thrice removed from reality is bearing no fruit at all. My entire life experience convinces me that with a leadership that fundamentally understands independence, and with the honor, courage, commitment of the Tibetan people, we will right the wrongs, fight the evils in Tibet and regain independence and restore the promise of the future with a government of the Tibetans, for the Tibetans and by the Tibetans in the form of secular bicameral two or multi-party system in a democratic republic of Tibet!
I believe in Tibet. We have always been a land of exceptional leaders and creation. We produced Nyatri Tsenpo, Tsongtsen, Thumi Sambota, Thangtong Gyalpo, Gedun Chompe, Andruk Gompo, and Milarepa who flew from Dhingrey to Everest top, where even eagles dare not fly to, without a machine attached to his body! We created tsampa, bhakthu, sho, chupa and woordho! We even protected the nature and the wildlife with an enlightening ancient system of regulations that even modern environmentalists learn from with awe and envy. With a single letter, we brought the Chinese emperor to his knees offering Songtsen their hottest princess to play with! These reflect our singular capacity for growth, dignity, and life.
Nor is it an accident that the productivity of most of the moral teachings of Tibetan Buddhism minus the unprovable belief system laced with superstitions remains unparalleled worldwide among people with intellect and openness. Yet it is also responsible for the death of the martial spirit of our people within the immediate control of the aristocrats who at their best cared more about wine, women, and music than the continuity of the martial spirit of the Yarlung warriors, and at their worst including the clergy infighting for hereditary powers that required the absolute subjugation of the masses from Kongpo to Ngari over which their control remained permanent since time immemorial.
To this day since 2008, I have hardly heard of protests in Kongpo, Tsang, Ngari, and Toe. Any clue as to why? Fight for independence is not the responsibility of just Dhomey, Dhotoe and U alone but of all of us tsampa eaters from every other valley in Tibet. However, the dynamism of our community as a whole is renowned around the world in that we the stateless people thus far have survived as a virtual nation thanks to the courageous effort of Andruk Gompo inside Tibet and intelligent effort of the Dalai Lama in exile.
We should build upon our strengths, not burden them with rationalizations and dependence on the venom to cure the heart of our nation. My salute goes out to the Tibetans in Lhasa and several valleys around it, many areas in Dhotoe, many regions in Dhomey especially Ngaba town-the nerve center of protests and self-immolations. We have no right to force people to protest but when they do in whatever way they chose to do, my heart goes out to them. Independence is not free nor is it an instant coffee. However, their sacrifice keeps the flame of independence burning against a powerful evil wind which fails to extinguish it.
Once again I salute Tenzin Choying, a 19-year-old independence warrior from Kollegal Tibetan Settlement who out of hopelessness in Middle Way Approach set himself on fire in Varanasi 10 days ago screaming “Independence for Tibet! Victory to Tibet!”
There’s much that needs to be done and done quickly to put Tibet back on the right path. I will share a Dhasa café idea that has so far failed to hit the ground but focuses on several areas where groundbreaking reform is urgently needed: secularization, bicameralization, two or more party systemization, restoration of “TGIE”, and independence as our ultimate political goal however strewn with hardships the path of our struggle might be.
The current structure of “choka-cholug” government is a blockade to a pure representative democracy and therefore such an undemocratic system of voting and election must be wiped out by 2021 or there about when the next election campaign kicks off. Change in all of these areas would be important and beneficial for the future. Taken together, they hold the potential to reignite our sense of purpose in exile and to burst independence revolution in every nook and corner of Tibet in every shape and form possible.
So much is at stake: nothing less than the independence of our great country.
Rise and rise again until the lambs in exile become the lions in Tibet!
Independence; No more! No less!
P.S. This post was first published in August 2012.