Friday, December 16, 2011

Waiting for the Dalai Lama

One usually believes that China is a powerful nation with a breathtaking development rate and that the Chinese people suffer from a superiority complex. It is partially true.
In a recent editorial in Xinhua, Li Hongmei made fun of India which, he said “needs to, first and foremost, break through its own psychological fence."
India has an inferiority complex, explained Li: “India's jealousy can sometimes be put in the same breath of inferiority. India could trace its sense of being so self-abased to the brief border war with China in 1960s, when it was beaten by the Chinese army.”
In this context, the new book of Annelie Rozeboom Waiting for the Dalai Lama — Stories from all sides of the Tibetan debate (Jaico Publishing) is worth reading.
Though there are many facets to what the author calls the ‘Tibetan debate’, we are often more aware of the problems facing the Tibetan Diaspora, probably due to the Dalai Lama’s ceaseless activities.
Rozeboom, a journalist who has been posted in China for 11 years and has widely reported about the country’s rapid growth, beings out other aspects by interviewing personae on both sides of the Himalayan curtain. She travelled to Tibet (with Beijing’s permission) and later to Dharamsala to record the stories of refugees as well as those who continue to work ‘with the system’.
Though she could not meet senior working Chinese officials, she often quotes from the Party’s publications to give Beijing’s point of view.
After reading these portraits of a Tibetan beggar, tortured monk, university professor, Chinese cadre, exiled-government official, Tibetan doctor, activist or even foreigners living in Tibet, one get a more encompassing view of the Tibetan scenario.
The title of the book (‘Waiting for the Dalai Lama’) answers questions about the tense situation in Tibet today. Reading the tales of the interviewees, one understands that China should not have a superiority ‘complex’.
In October 1950, Mao’s troops entered Tibet to ‘liberate’ the Roof of the World; nine years later, despite the best efforts of the Dalai Lama, Tibet was still not ‘liberated’ and the Tibetan leader had to take refuge in India. The Communist leadership in Beijing may speak of India’s inferiority complex, but the fact that the Dalai Lama and one lakh of followers escaped to India to live a better and freer live was a serious shock for the Chinese ego.
The 1962 conflict mentioned by them as a source of India’s ‘inferiority’ was the direct consequence of the Dalai Lama crossing over to India at Khenzimane, at the bottom of the Thagla ridge, the place of the Chinese first attack in 1962.
Again in 1980’s, the Chinese Communist Party thought that they had ‘liberated’ Tibet. One of the Dalai Lama’s Envoys who went with the first delegation to Tibet in 1980 told me of incidents when the Dharamsala delegation arrived in Lhasa: “When the Chinese cadres saw that the Tibetan people were prostrating in front of us, folding their hands in prayers and were trying to get whatever their hands could grab from us (tearing our hair, our dresses), the Chinese officials in Jokhang Cathedral became really angry; they said: ‘Here is the result of all our efforts for these people for 20 years’. They were so nervous and disappointed (by their failure), that some stamped their feet and even cried.”
Today like in the 1980’s, the people of Tibet wait for the Dalai Lama.
Years ago, I asked the Dalai Lama: “Could you envisage a day to perform the Kalachakra initiation in Tiananmen Square?”; he immediately answered: “Oh, yes. In fact, after the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989, I felt that one day, in the future, I would like to perform one Kalachakra initiation on Tiananmen. This desire or vision is still with me.” He added: “Once, I met an old French diplomat, a friend of mine, who told me that the Chinese Communist leaders fear religion. There is some substance in this and, of course, with the public interest for Marxist ideology decreasing, and the interest for spirituality increasing and naturally, the fear increases.”
Beijing today lives in fear.
Rozeboom mentions another aspect when she quotes from a speech of the Panchen Lama who passed away in mysterious circumstances in 1989. Two years earlier, the second senior-most Lama told the Chinese People’s Congress: “What are we gaining from leftist practices in Tibet? Those with leftist ideology are suppressing everything. When Comrade Hu Yaobang was recently disgraced, the leftist officials exploded firecrackers and drank in celebration. They commented that the stalwart supporter of the Tibetan people had been defeated.”
Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang had visited Tibet in 1980 and asked “What good have we brought to Tibet?”
It is the fundamental question behind all Rozeboom’s interviews: Tibetans are unhappy and want the Dalai Lama to return to a Tibet free from its present ideology.
I wish the author had interviewed Tsering Woeser, the famous Tibetan blogger living in Beijing. Speaking about the recent immolations, Woeser explains: “The Communist Party does not understand why this is happening. The despots only believe in guns and money. They not only have no faith themselves, they can't even understand the power of faith to motivate acts of great selflessness.” She adds on her blog: “Their sacrifice has two meanings, one to protect their beliefs and the other to fight for their freedom. As they died, the burning Tibetans shouted, ‘Tibet needs to be free!’ ‘Let the Dalai Lama return home!’
Today Beijing is promoting Cultural Revolution-like policies. In January 2011, the 5th Tibet Work Forum, a strategy meeting was attended by the 300 senior-most Party members as well as PLA leaders.
One of the schemes put in place after the Forum was: some 21,000 Party officials were to be sent in teams of four to each of the TAR’s 5,453 administrative villages and resident committees. They were to remain there for a period of 4 years. In October, the officials’ first arrival in the villages received a great deal of publicity. Each team member is supposed to rotate to a new location after 12 months, though he must remain in the village for at least 25 days per month. The objectives  of the scheme were five-fold: (1) strengthen the Party organization at the grass root level, (2) promote stability by persuading villagers to join the struggle against the ‘Dalai Lama’s splittist activities’, (3) improve the economy of each village and create new jobs, (4) educate the locals to appreciate and be grateful to the motherland and the Party, and (5) get each village to begin to more effectively carry out the plans and policies the above policies.
Wang Yonggui, a scholar at the School of Marxist Studies at Nanjing Normal University recently published in The Qiushi Journal an article on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) control over ‘ideology work’. Wang argues that the Party’s control over ideology “cannot be loosened for a single moment” and that “strengthening the Party’s sole leadership over work in ideology is an important weapon for the CCP’s success.” Wang says: “Managing ideology work has always been a very important function for our Party. Missteps in managing the economy will cause big problems. Missteps in managing ideology will also cause big problems.”
That is why the Tibetans (and perhaps some Chinese) are waiting for the Dalai Lama; he believes in managing ‘the human mind’, not ‘ideology’.
Though the book has quite a few factual errors (for example the author says that Heinrich Harrer went to Tibet in 1930’s when he entered in 1944), it remains timely; reading the collection of interviews is enjoyable.

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