By Mila Rangzen
In its undated memo condemning my article ” Is Dharamsala Safe for Tibetans?” that appeared on Tibet Telegraph, the Dharamsala Tibetan Settlement Office (DTSO) has unscrupulously lied about my name claiming Mila Rangzen as my pseudonym and Dhondup Choephel as my real name. This is a cheap attempt on the part of the office to discredit me and my article. Yes, Dhondup Choephel WAS my old name. I changed it legally to Mila Rangzen when I became US citizen in January 2004. Name changing is not so uncommon among American immigrants at the time of naturalization.
Well, I have no reason to hide my identity nor do I need a pen name. My new yet real name Mila Rangzen is in use since 2004. I am sure the reader will agree with me that it would be wrong to misinform the public that Tenzin Gyatso is a pseudonym (for the Dalai Lama) just because his real childhood name was Lhamo Dhondup. Here are copies of my IDs including old and new US passports, court name change paper, and my green book pages. You don’t get these documents on a pseudonym. Do you? Some of the sensitive info on my IDs are blocked to avoid identity theft. The facts speak for the truth. Now let the reader be the judge.
DTSO can certainly have its own view but to condemn an article calling for a solution to a Tibetan crisis is an act of suppression of basic democratic values. The article was not an attack on the Gaddis. The following extract from my article in question proves just that. “No government or people on earth have ever helped exile Tibetans more than the government and people of India have done for the past six decades. They have helped Tibetans humanitarianly, educationally, economically, culturally, spiritually and even politically to a point.
Tibetans all over the world will forever remain indebted to their wisdom and compassion in action.” Here is another one expressing my gratitude “In more ways than one we are grateful to the state and people of Himachal Pradesh for sheltering nearly 25,000 migratory Tibetans.” However, it does become necessary for someone to stand up and point out the ethnic crisis Tibetans in Dharamsala go through owing to their statelessness. The objective is to look at the heart of the crisis so a solution may be found.
Glossing over such pressing issues are not being upright and it is indeed a disservice to our community. Yes, it is hard to get consent from the people–whose dehumanizing experiences I mentioned–to reveal their names and the details and the underlying reason is privacy, fear, and futility. Even respected media like phayul.com that once published the Gaddis mobbing Tibetan incidents including the ones between 2007 and 2013 has all the pieces or reports wiped out from its website.
However, if the Central Tibetan Administration(CTA) promises full legal, financial and moral support to the victims, it might encourage them to come out and file the criminal cases. True, some of the incidents I wrote about are old and therefore may be beyond any legal help but the CTA or DTSO can at least help as a first step the newcomers who were recently assaulted for failing to pay the room rent on time. Failure to pay the rent on time cannot justify violence. For details, contact Tenzin Migmar Tasur at Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy(TCHRD), Gangkyi. Newcomers being far away from their families and friends in Tibet, many of them are paperless, penniless with language and cultural adjustment disorder and they certainly need the most help. Besides, they are our vital link to Tibet.
Also conduct an anonymous survey soon over 4000 Tibetans in Dharamsala across age, gender and socioeconomic status on their experiences with the Gaddi community. Official manipulation or eye-washing will not be tolerated. Let the truth, sweet or bitter, come out. CTA should make sure that Tibetans who adopt Indian citizenship would have permanent ownership of the house(to be precise, it’s a hut but the 18,000 sqft plot(for a family of 10) is of value for any future construction) and the piece of land(roughly 8 acres for a family of 10) given to them on humanitarian ground in the settlements on 99 year lease by the host states like Karnataka, Orisa and others.
The fear of losing these two basic possessions largely prevents Tibetans from adopting Indian citizenship. For now, CTA is not doing anything to remove this hurdle. The fact that after 55 years in exile, a majority of the Tibetans in India are mired in grinding poverty should be a powerful case for the total ownership of the house and the land. Tibetans do need this double cushion, the ownership to avoid homelessness and Indian citizenship for confidence and rights. CTA must stop washing its hands off by giving a smooth lecture that the decision rests with the host states and that it is powerless to do anything about it. It is unacceptable because it goes contrary to CTA’s claim that it supports Tibetans seeking Indian citizenship.
Now coming back to the alternative to Dharamsala as the exile capital no matter where we migrate there will be some problems with the locals but certainly not at this scale as in Dharamsala if we know how to go about it. That being said it’s time the Dalai Lama and the entire Tibetan community in Dharamsala and Himachal Pradesh move to a new location preferably in rain-rich Western Ghats, South India.
CTA can either get on 99 year lease or buy 100sqkm of virgin valley with a river embosomed by lush forested mountains with perfect climate (average 20 degree Celsius or 70 degree Fahrenheit) some 100km away from the nearest local villages and at least 200km away from the major towns and cities in every direction in the Karnataka state with an altitude of 4000 to 6000 feet attached to the Indian Ocean.
All the Tibetans in Karnataka and other states and also the suffering Bhutan Tibetans and the persecuted Nepal Tibetans should be moved there for good. And it is here we can build our base, a super modern town called Tibet City for 100,000 Tibetans or more with our own vegetable farms with a 30 foot high 3 feet thick concrete wall (to thwart any land encroachment) running around the periphery of the whole territory with a gap of 500 meters from the inner fence.
The inner fence should be one of the thick iron bars 20 feet high for social, economic and ethnic security reasons. 2 gates, one for exit and the other for entrance will be manned by a dozen security officers each shift. Those few local villages in the land that we are going to get on lease or buy can be compensated by moving them to abandoned Tibetan settlements.
Tibet City should strive to be as independent as possible with our own goods and services. We should also have our own informal police system to break up fights and administer medieval lashes on the rear (like in Singapore) before reporting the matters to the Karnataka criminal justice system without dumb compassion to the perpetrators, to prevent or deter further crimes in the future. Informal police system must see to it that the perpetrators are effectively legally punished (or people with money can easily buy the weak Karnataka criminal justice system as we witness often !) and the victims must be supported at all cost.
Those elders who cover up the crime because they believe it will bring a bad name to the Dalai Lama deserve a swift kick to their rear. Crimes are committed in every society and it is all too human. What is inhuman is when you smother and victimize the victim out of some weird sense of cultural shame and let go the perpetrator, only to find him emboldened to commit another crime, and his next victim might be your daughter or even your mother.
Regarding the wherewithal, If the Dalai Lama and other great lamas and world famous Tibetan supporters set aside just one year and personally campaign for donations throughout the world through all the media from individuals, philanthropists, NGOs and governments, $4 billion to $10 billion is probable. Reestablish contacts with billionaire George Soros who once offered to buy us an island in the 80’s. Well, keeping a good land distance between us and the locals is the second step before education and workshop can play their role.
Therefore, I don’t recommend Dalai Lama moving to Mundgod because the land distance is not much already and we did have occasional issues with the locals in the past and the climate there is unbearably hot and humid. If a hundred thousand of us move there over a course of five years, communal clashes are bound to occur due to the competition for scant resources in a small land space. Also, the security of the Dalai Lama must be considered. Mundgod is one of the most powerful Shugden bases in exile and their hatred toward the Dalai Lama is well known.
This idea of Tibet City is not to put all the eggs in the same basket. Thousands shall remain scattered in India, Bhutan, and Nepal in non-settlement areas due to their familiarity with the livelihood and the continuity of income. No, we need not be near New Delhi to further our cause. All we need in New Delhi are two huge thirty story buildings, one of which can house CTA and its departments and parliament with 2000 Tibetan staff for political and diplomatic purposes. The other building close by can be used as a residence for the working staff and their families.
No, we need not be near the Tibet border to achieve our common goal. If this is the case then we should all be in Arunachal Pradesh. But in the worst possible scenario, we could be overrun overnight once PRC changes her military tactics along the more accessible border. Besides, one thousand Tibetans from the said state are immigrating to Canada which is good for our cause. Remaining stuck in the grinding poverty in a remote state such as Arunachal Pradesh is no help to our family, community or to our cause-independence or autonomy.
Meanwhile, those of you who fit the 1950-1987 time frame and your children who are recognized as Indian citizens by birth should apply for ration cards, cast votes for better roads, drinking water and electricity in the Tibetan areas while pressuring the local political parties on our cause. As Indian citizens and with votes in your wallet, you can fight for your rights or against any discrimination with more confidence.
Pick up the local language. it makes a huge difference. No one gives a damn to a bunch of “refugees” crying helplessly year after year and decade after decade. Like it or not that is the nature of the beast. Also, there is no law set in stone in the human history that once you become Indian citizens; you automatically lose the right to fight for Tibetan independence or autonomy.
If ever independence shines on the Tibetan horizon, you can at any time relinquish Indian citizenship for Tibetan citizenship or hold on to both if possible legally. It will also not affect the midget foreign aid we receive or the application we submit for political asylum in the west. Tibetans should buy land and do big corporation business. Benami deal or stateless Tibetans buying land and property in Indian citizen’s name is uncertain and scary. There is often the case of betrayal and also Himachal Government is hell-bent on cracking on us on this issue soon. Over 300 Tibetan buildings in Dharamsala will be demolished.
Apply for Indian passport and immigrate to the west. It will be a good source of revenue for CTA. A large Tibetan diaspora in the west with economic security only helps Tibetan cause. Remember Israel continues to get financial and political help from millions of wealthy educated Jews in the west. It does not dilute our identity or weaken our cause as long as we don’t lose our spoken Tibetan-a window to our culture and a connection to our roots. What part of our culture should stay or go is left for the individual to decide.
Tibetans in India who do not belong to the 1950-1987 birth cutoffs are foreigners given temporary shelter on humanitarian grounds, not on refugee status as many Tibetans believe. Those who have been residing in India for more than 20 years should file a case and apply for Indian citizenship now. We are better off that way than remain “refugees” and weak economically and expect the world to save us from China who will overtake the US in the next 50 years.
Also, It is not wise to be swayed by Samdhong Lama’s high sounding outdated views on things that are dear to us here and now. Your Indian citizenship in no way undermines your Tibetan nationality. These are two separate aspects of your identity. Embracing one does not cancel out the other. You can still be patriotic and scream independence or autonomy. There are at least 198 different nationalities in the US with their own ethnic enclaves.
The international community might feel less obligated politically once we become Indian citizens is one such argument put forward by those Tibetans who are against adopting Indian citizenship. However, there is not much basis. The political help we seek from the UN or the international community is not just for us hundred thousand Tibetans or so in exile but for the six million Tibetans inside Tibet whose basic, human rights are violated.
Nowhere in UN’s charter is it enshrined that those Tibetans with Indian citizenship cannot be the voice for the voiceless in Tibet. Also more than half of the Tibetans in India do not qualify for the citizenship. Our historical claim on Tibet does not simply rest with whether Tibetans in exile adopt Indian citizenship.
It solely rests on what China did to an independent Tibet in our recent history and what Tibet Tibetans want or fight for and whether Tibetans in Tibet have human rights. How shallow must the moral claims over Tibet be if it can be extinguished by a piece of paper! Greater our rights in exile get, greater will be our economic independence. And greater our economic independence get, greater will be our education level to reinforce our moral, historical and political claims over Tibet. Home Minister Gyari Dolma and many others in the CTA have Indian citizenship and yet they have not lost their house and land in the settlements. Bylakuppe Tibetans with Indian and foreign citizenship have also not lost both the basic possessions so can you!
Tibet City will flourish on tourism on both land, rivers and the beach nearby. Also, Tibetans can have one foot in Tibet City and one in the west while dreaming to have the third leg in Tibet someday. Because CTA performs so miserably when it comes to planning, here are some basics about the city. It must be a planned city. The city must have 30 feet wide sidewalks, 200 feet wide roads that include on each side 10 feet wide parking space, 10 feet wide bicycle lane, 10 feet wide jogging lane and also separate 6 feet wide by 10 feet deep drainage and 6 feet wide by 10 feet deep wiring lanes.
In the center of the city should be a jungle park 8km by 2km with 2 lakes and 10 streams to generate fresh oxygen. For sanitation, heavy trucks (not human hands), dumpsters, trash cans everywhere and dumping ground system (100 feet deep over 1 sqkm) should be in place in the corner of the territory.
This jungle park should be surrounded by 6 story concrete buildings (with 6 elevators, fire escapes and 200 feet wide lawn for both front and backyard, each building accommodating 200 people) behind which at a 500 meter distance should be hospitals, handicraft centers, nurseries, schools, colleges, universities, tennis courts, basketball courts, and green grassy soccer playgrounds. Right behind this should be farms followed by forests.
The size of the windows should be 5 feet high by 2 feet wide to ensure the long-term strength of the buildings. In the center of the park should be a giant stupa with a diameter of 500 meters, 50 meter high surrounded by grocery stores, offices, restaurants, hotels, and malls. The inside of this stupa shall be our community center with the capacity to accommodate 100,000 people with kitchens on the left and restrooms on the right. This whole area shall be our financial and social hub.
The gap between the ends of the stupa and the line of business buildings must be 500 meters wide to avoid the crowd in the future during kora(clockwise Buddhist spiritual walk or circumambulation). The kora ring must be concrete to avoid dust in summer and mud in monsoon. The home for the Dalai Lama can be built at the center of a flat hilltop with a 30-foot high concrete wall running at a distance of 1km in each direction for maximum security.
The city must have a small domestic airport and seaport as well. For 24/7 treated fresh running water, the river should be the main source. For hot running water, a 400,000 litter solar water tank must be installed on the roof of every building or on the ground nearby since the water pressure system can do the work of ensuring rain shower in the bathrooms.
For electricity, we must have the hydro or coal-powered plant erected within our territory to ensure 24/7 power or illumination. In case of power failure, every building should have an inverter, solar and a generator. Monasteries can be built along the periphery of the territory and far away from each other. The roads should be 2 feet thick with concrete on top of which can be laid 3-inch tar. There should be eight 100 feet wide roads leading to the stupa from different directions from the major ring road. Stoves can be run on electricity, not gas for maximum safety. No risky burning of incense, candles or lamps will be allowed. An only electric lamp will do. Lit incense or candles are the major causes for the Tibetan homes burnt down in the west.
Each bathroom will have a bathtub, sink and western style long commode (for hygienic reasons) with high-pressure handheld deep ass shower. The basement of each building will be used as parking lot. To make the buildings earthquake proof, the foundation will be 20 feet deep with concrete covering its length and breath and the walls will be 3 feet thick concrete. The first floor of each building is for business purposes. Each apartment will have four 20 feet by 20 feet master bedrooms with a 60 feet by 40 feet living room, one 30 feet by 20 feet kitchen cum dining hall, two 20 feet by 20 feet bathrooms, one 10 feet by 40 feet balcony, one 20 feet by 20 feet storage room for a family of four. The kitchen and the bathroom will be as far away as possible from each other. There will be 3 security guards with radios at each building during each 8-hour shift. ID checking is a must. CCTV cameras and announcement system will be installed on every building.
Two giant 500 meters wide by 100-meter deep septic tanks will be built at the lower end of the territory. One for shower wastewater and the other for human waste. There must be at least two 3 bogie electric trains for commuters, running along the 24 km long circle around the giant park. Tibet City may not have skyscrapers but it will be a model city for India and many Asian, African, South Americans and Central American countries. Street vending and footpath business on sidewalks will be banned.
Zero tolerance for substance abuse will be in place. The giant park should have many varieties of harmless wild animals like deer and birds numbering over a million that will take care of the farm insects. The streams, lakes, and rivers should be teeming with fish and all other marine life to purify the water that sustains life.
This project may seem herculean but if we begin now with our own individual contribution, it can become a reality. So it is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. There are about 40,000 working Tibetans in many of the affluent countries across the globe. There are also a good number of Tibetan business families of substantial worth in Bhutan, Nepal, and India. Not to speak of the wealthy Lamas, Tulkus and Rinpoches some of whose properties (offered by their devotees) are worth over a billion US dollars.
A mandatory contribution of 10% of every working individual’s annual income for the next 10 years, huge donations from wealthy Tibetan folks can easily rake in 8 billion US dollars. A special budget must be set aside for long-term maintenance. Free physical labor from the poorer folks will dramatically reduce construction and other costs. That’s how we have been doing with most of our community projects. And it is swift and effective.
The purpose of this piece is to create awareness, not bitterness. However, placating has no place here as it flees from pressing responsibilities. This article is to educate and make a difference by adding a brick to the wall of security, dreams, and hopes of our people. The idea of Tibet City is not born out of an ethnic phobia. This must be clear by now. It is to ensure not only our safety but also the safety and dignity of our children that is necessary to take our cause to the next level.
If we don’t act soon, once the Dalai Lama is gone, future generations of Tibetans will be disoriented beyond belief suffering ethnic discrimination and humiliations but that is not the legacy that we as parents want to leave for our children and children’s children when we are gone. However practical it may or may not turn out, it’s time we do not give in to those local traders’ hollow promise of security and dignity that has never been kept since the 80’s and start leaving Dharamsala and Himachal Pradesh one by one for good.
I have been living in Karnataka off and on for the past 40 years and I know every everyday trick to sort out even sometimes explosive issues without resulting in the death of the cobra nor the breakage of the cane. In the next post, I will produce a guideline on how to and how not to interact with the sharp jolly people of Karnataka in South India for maximum inter-ethnic harmony!
P.S. This post was first published in July 2014.