Even as India-China ties touch a new low over a border dispute and war clouds loom large, the absence of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama from the scene is unbelievable to say the least. Not only Dalai Lama, but even the Tibetans living in India are silent.
They are also not visible. Why is the Dalai Lama not attacking China over its imperialist designs and building opinion against the dragon for threatening war against India? He prefers to keep quiet at a time when tensions are mounting. The two Asian giants have close to a 4,000 km long border.
It is a disputed one. It would be an understatement to say that the situation is grave and serious as 6,000 soldiers are facing each other eyeball-to-eyeball.
Amidst all this, the respected leader from Tibet is not seen. This is the time when he could and should pro-actively use his good offices and stature to appraise top leaders of the world about the current situation. Further, he could tell them how brutally the Chinese government is treating people in Tibet.
The charismatic Dalai Lama should remember 17 March 1959, when he left Lhasa. And on 26 March 1959, he reached Lhuntse Dzong, a few days march from the McMahon Line, the border between India and Tibet. Dalai Lama wrote to the then Indian prime minister Pt. Jawahalal Nehru to seek refuge in India. And once Nehru got the request, he immediately decided to grant asylum to him and his close aides.
Nehru replied to the Dalai Lama: "My colleagues and I welcome you and send you greetings on your safe arrival in India. We shall be happy to afford the necessary facilities for you, your family and entourage to reside in India. The people of India who hold you in great veneration will no doubt accord their traditional respect to your person.”
Since then, the Dalai Lama is considered as among the most respected citizens of India. Indians hold him in very high esteem. And he too, describes himself as a “son of India” and hailed the secularism prevailing in the country. In a recent interview, Dalai Lama said “I am living in India since 1959 and hence, I am a son of India.”
The Noble laureate made this remark in his speech after inaugurating an international seminar on Buddhism in Bihar's Nalanda district. Further, the Tibetan spiritual leader told China to learn from India about democracy which brings in harmony among people of different languages and ethnic backgrounds.
“In India, there is harmony in society, which has different languages and scripts. Democracy in this country is deeply rooted not because of the country’s poor condition, but because of transparency,” the Dalai Lama once told Thailand’s leading English daily ‘Nation’ in an interview.
These sentiments are praiseworthy but with the situation now explosive, India needs active support from the Dalai Lama. Sadly enough, this is missing. He has not uttered even a word against the ulterior designs of China. Why? Dalai Lama ought to speak the truth. India doesn’t expect that he becomes our spokesperson. However, India can expect that he exposes the deadly designs of China.
The same is true for Tibetans living in India. They freely protest against the repressive Chinese regime for atrocities in Tibet. There are roughly 100,000 Tibetans living in India. Although they are often referred to as “refugees”, it is a fact that many of them have got Indian citizenship. According to India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1986, anyone born in India between 26 January 1950, and 1 July 1987 is an Indian citizen.
This makes a large section of the Tibetan exile community in India eligible for Indian citizenship. Many of them are applying for citizenship too. Since long, these Tibetans have protested as a matter of principle as and when any big Chinese leader visits Delhi. Some of them even climb the wall of the Chinese mission.
Even though cops beat them and prevent them from creating nuisance, yet they make their presence felt with their protests. This is the freedom they are enjoying in India. Yet, they are not ready to come out in support of India. They have not organised even a single protest march in Delhi or any part of the country.
This is somewhat bewildering. Indians certainly expect moral support from the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community. Sadly this is not forthcoming. This is a bitter lesson for India.
(The writer is a BJP Member of the Rajya Sabha.)