I am reposting this very special document: the Report for the months of March, April and May 1959 sent by the Indian Consul General in Lhasa (Maj SL Chibber) to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.
This Top Secret document is dated June 1, 1959.
Maj Chibber, an Indian Army officer from the Jat Regiment had already spent nine years in Tibet.
He came first to Tibet in 1950 to replace Maj SM Krishnatry, the Officer Commanding the Indian Escort in Gyantse (Krishnatry was from the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment).
After his tenure in Gyanste with the Escort, Maj Chibber served on deputation as Indian Trade Agent in Yatung and Gyantse. He took over as Consul General in Lhasa from PN Menon (father of former Foreign Secretary and National Secretary Advisor, Shivashankar Menon) in February 1957, when the Dalai Lama returned from his trip in India.
In September 1959, he was transferred as First Secretary to the Political Officer's Office in Gangtok (he would later be integrated into the Indian Foreign Service).
India's views on the dramatic events of March/April 1959 never appeared before.
It is worth mentioning that a Kindle book The 1959 Tibetan Uprising Documents - The Chinese Army Documents published early this year provided some documents from the Military Intelligence of the People's Liberation Army on the 1959 bloody events.
This publication provides several maps of the battle of Lhasa; it complements Maj Chibber's narration.
Another account of the events is given by Jianglin Li in her Tibet in Agony, "the first clear historical account of the Chinese crackdown in Lhasa in 1959. Sifting facts from the distortions of propaganda and partisan politics, she reconstructs a chronology...", says the preface of her book.
Incidentally, since 2009, China celebrates March 28 as the Serfs Emancipation Day.
It is an yearly holiday in the Tibet Autonomous Region. It is supposed to be the day that the 'reforms' could finally be implemented on the Roof of the World. On March 28, 1959 the Tibetan government had been declared 'illegal' by the People's Republic of China and the so-called serves had been liberated Tibetans from feudalism and theocracy ...by the guns.
But as described by Maj Chibber, it is clear that the uprising of March 1959 was the revolt of the 'masses' against the occupiers.
Maj Chibber's conclusions are worth noting: "The future of Tibet is dark and only a miracle can save Tibet from the clutches of the Chinese Communist Colonialists."
My website contains a large collection of documents relating to the March 1959 Uprising.
Click here to consult
Volume 48 of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru dealing with this event is also downloadable
Report for the months of March, April and May 1959 from the Consul General of India in Lhasa, Tibet
In the history of movement for free Tibet the month of March, 1959, will be most historic as during this month Tibetans high and low, in Lhasa, Capital of Tibet, openly challenged the Chinese rule in Tibet. They set up an organisation called – ‘Pho Mimang Ranchen Chi Chog’, meaning, ‘Tibetan Peoples Independent Organisation’, renounced the Sino-Tibetan Agreement of 1951, staged demonstrations to give vent to their anti-Chinese feelings and demanded withdrawal of the Chinese from Tibet. But this challenge, before the MIGHT OF CHINESE People’s Liberation Army, who on 20th March, 1959, started an all out offensive against the ill-organised, ill-equipped, untrained-Tibetans with artillery, mortors, machine guns and all types of automatic weapons, was short lived.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, smelling danger, left Lhasa secretly on the night of the 17th March, 1959, with important members of his personal staff, three Cabinet Ministers and members of his family for Lhoka area (south of Lhasa), where at that time Khampas had full sway and from where it was easier for him to escape to India if need arose. Many other important and un-important-Tibetans followed him when the actual trouble started on the night of 19th March, 1959.
On the 28th March, 1959, the State Council of the Peoples Republic of China dissolved the local Tibet Government and transferred all its functions and powers to the Preparatory Committee for the Tibetan Autonomous Region, - which was set up by the Chinese on 22nd April, 1956, but due to various reasons was not functioning as desired by the Chinese, with Panchen Lama as its Acting Chairman, stating that Panchen Lama would act for the period the Dalai Lama was held in duress. Ngapho Shape [Ngabo Ngawang Jigme] and Phak-pa La [Phagpala Rinpoche] of Chamdo, a young incarnate Lama of Chamdo studying at Sera, were promoted as Vice Chairmen from their former positions of member of Standing Committee and Secretary General and member of Standing Committee respectively. Eighteen Tibetan members of the Committee who were labeled-traitors by the Chinese were dismissed and replaced by five Chinese and eleven Tibetans. The State Council also ordered the People’s Liberation Army stationed in Tibet to assume Military Control in Tibet except Shigatse, the seat of Panchen Lama. The Military Control commission in Lhasa was formally established on 23rd March, 1959.
During these months the Chinese with the help of their armed forces including air-force quelled the main Resistance Force in Lhoka area, carried out thorough – screening of Inhabitants in and around Lhasa, detained hordes of Tibetans and others on-slightest suspicion, impounded all the private vehicles except for a few belonging to pro-Chinese Tibetans but they were also not allowed to ply and thus made travel outside Lhasa impossible (their own Transport Department’s passenger service between Yatung/Shigatse/Gyantse and Lhasa was stopped many months before), promulgated dusk to dawn curfew, organized meetings and – rallies to condemn the former Tibetan Government and Imperialists, blamed Indians as expansionist and for interfering in the internal affairs of Tibet and rapidly installed Military Control Commissions in other places in Tibet. The preparatory Committee held two meetings after its reorganization, one under Chairmanship of the Panchen Lama and the other under General Chang Kuo-hua [Zhang Guohua] in absence of the Panchen Lama who had gone to Peking to attend the Second National People’s Congress Session there, and passed few resolutions.
In brief the booms of Chinese guns and fire from their weapons, which destroyed number of buildings including religious places, large scale killing of Tibetans followed by mass arrests, departure of Dalai Lama and high-ranking Tibetan officials from Lhasa completely shattered the morale of Tibetans in general and they were left with no other alternative but to bow before the Chinese.
|Norbulinka Palce: in blue the Tibetan defences, in red the Chinese PLA movements|
The nationalist movement in Tibet, the climax of which reached on 10th March, 1959, had started sometime in 1955 in Kham, Eastern Tibet and then spread to west in Amdo region and north-east in Golok areas. In 1955 and 1957 it took shape of an open revolt against the Chinese regime in these areas. These people though did not succeed but they were a constant headache to the Chinese who had to resort to aerial bombing and deploy large number of forces to subjugate the local inhabitants. During operations number of monasteries were destroyed and the local people suffered heavy losses. Due to absence of proper means of communication and security measured adopted by Chinese to suppress the information the correct news of happenings in these areas-seldom reached out-side world. However, whatever little news trickled through traders and travelers contained horrible accounts of atrocities committed by the Chinese against the people of these areas, especially against the lamaseries. This naturally had an effect on the minds of Tibetans elsewhere and a stage had reached that some among these Tibetans who had thrown their lot with the Chinese previously, many became apprehensive and doubted Chinese promises of respect for religion and internal autonomy. The Khampas in east finding difficult to face the frontal attack of the Chinese troops resorted to guerilla tactics and moved towards the south where the Chinese garrisons were few and far between and the difficult terrain suited to hit and run type of war.
They were able to disrupt completely traffic on Sikang [Kham]-Tibet highway and managed to have a complete control of area called Lhoka (south of Tsangpo river) and some areas in north-east-of the river. In May, 1958, and later they were joined by Khampas and their kinds from Lhasa and elsewhere also. Number of monks from various monasteries, some Tibetan soldiers and other Tibetans also joined them. They were successful in their attacks on some convoys on Lhasa Shigatse road and Tsinghai Tibet highway.
There were also reports of air-drop of arms and ammunitions to these people in Lhoka area by unidentified planes. All the time the Chinese did not take any action against these Khampa, except on one or two occasions but pressed the Tibetan Government to suppress them. The Tibetan Government under pressure from Chinese sent Peace Missions comprising of monks and Iay officials to Kham and Lhoka areas but no useful purpose was served. – The Mission which went to Lhoka stayed on and never returned. It was said that the members of the Mission had joined the Khampas.
As a number of officials in the Tibetan Government did not like the presence of Chinese in Tibet no concrete stops were taken by the Tibetan Government and in all probabilities encouraged the movement secretly. All these encouraged the people in Lhasa, especially the intelligentsia and they thought it was high time for a general uprising. The Chinese did not sit quiet and were not blind to what was happening and were not taking chances by leaving thing to the Tibetan Government. They started preparing themselves for the show down; fortified their offices and residences with sand bags, dug trenches and prepared fire positions, all cadres were issued arms and ammunition and made to join militia under the pretext that these militia units were similar to those of China proper, stored rations and due wells on their promises and increased the strength of their troops considerably in and around Lhasa. The relations had been strained since a long time and at the close of the year 1958, the question was as to how and who should break the ice.
In January, 1959, General Tan Kwan San [Tan Guansan], Political Commissar, openly condemned Surkhang Shape, the senior most Cabinet Minister of the Tibetan Government, in a meeting of Chinese and Tibetans convened for congratulating Soviet Russia for their success on launching space rocket, for not taking any interest in the things Chinese were doing and threatened that if he (Surkhang) did not mend his ways he would be reduced to a labourer and if he still did not improve he would be done away with. This probably had a very serious affect on minds of the Tibetans who thought that if their highest official could be treated that way then there was no chance of survival for any one else. The anti-Chinese feeling among the Tibetans which had already mounted high further increased and the previous whisper campaign against the Chinese started tuning into open words and action.
During Monlam [Prayer Festival], the great prayer, 20,000 to 30,000 monks gather in Lhasa. Similarly large number of lay people of all classes from other parts of Tibet, including Kham, Golok and Amdo areas, come to Lhasa for pilgrimage and blessings of the Dalai Lama. Since 1954 this occasion was being utilized by the Tibetan nationalists for their anti-Chinese campaigns and exhorting people to rise against the Chinese. On two occasions anti-Chinese leaflets were thrown in Lhasa market square secretly and similarly hand written posters, containing Chinese anti-religious activities and atrocities committed by them, were displayed in the streets of Lhasa number of times.
The monks and other people who came from all over Tibet carried back these news and thus the anti-Chinese feelings among the masses were further intensified. Each Monlam after 1954 saw more and more of anti-Chinese feelings among the Tibetans. The incidents in which Tibetan and Chinese were involved and when the latter sided with their men aggravated hatred among the Tibetans against the Chinese.
In April, 1957, an armed Chinese who wanted to enter private apartment of Dalai Lama in Potala was arrested by the Tibetan soldiers on suspicion that he wanted to take life of the Dalai Lama and was sent by the Tashilhunpo authorities with the connivance of the Chinese. This naturally created wide spread resentment among the Tibetans, specially when the Chinese did not take any action against this man (he was simply returned to China).
During Monlam of 1959 two armed Chinese were arrested by the Tibetan soldiers during the Dalai Lama’s procession from Potala to main cathedral and the Tibetans charged those people with the same offence i.e. they had intention to kill the Dalai Lama and were agents of Tashilhunpo acting kill the Dalai Lama and were agents of Tashilhunpo acting under the direction of the Chinese. Under the pressure of the Chinese authorities the Tibetan Government handed over these people to them who after short while released them.
During Monlam, the Chinese took extra security measures. They distributed cash and their propaganda literature among the monks to gain their favour but in vain. By Monlam of 1959, the anti-Chinese sore only needed a pin prick to erupt it. The invitation to Dalai Lama by the Military Area Command to a Theatrical performance on the 10th March, 1959, provided an excuse to the nationalists to start their campaign openly in Lhasa against the Chinese.
The invitation, as far as we understand, was known only to a few top ranking Tibetan officials close to Dalai Lama. It seems that on the evening of 9th March and in the morning of 10th March Interested officials who know about the invitation quietly sent words to people in Lhasa asking them to come to Norbulingka to stop Dalai Lama from going to Chinese Military Headquarters as it was suspected that the Chinese might detain him and persuade him to go to Peking.
In the beginning, on the morning of 10th March, only few people came to Norbulingka but later when messages were sent from the office of the Sho Magistrate and the news got more currency men, women and children in large number started streaming towards Norbulingka. By about 10 A.M. about 15,000/20,000 people had assembled outside the summer palace.
Such a gathering of the public probably for the first time for a political issue in the history of Tibet after arrival of Communist Chinese. It is very difficult to say whether the danger envisaged by the Tibetan officials was real or they just used this excuse to stir up the minds of the public against the Chinese and thus start a mass movement against them.
The feelings, however, were running very high against the Chinese and the public was restless and any excuse would have served to mobilize them. Sawang Samdup Photrang, Cabinet Minister of Local Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Tibetan Army who was proceeding towards Norbulingka was stoned by the mob.
|The battle around the Chakpori Hill|
In the meantime the wishes of the public were passed on to Dalai Lama who through Sawang Surkhang and Kalon Lama Luishar assured the public over the loud-speakers that he would not go to the party. The mob had also by this time formed a Committee representing all classes including Tibetan Army, monasteries and officialdom. This Committee decided to declare Tibet as independent from 10th March, 1959, denounced the Sino-Tibetan Agreement of 1951, and to request Dalai Lama not to go to any function of the Chinese including the meetings of the Preparatory Committee.
Tibetan officials, lay and monk, present in Lhasa except for a few pre-Chinese, started going towards Norbulingka to attend meetings there. In the above mentioned Committee it was also decided that a deputation representing all sections of Tibetans should call on Foreign Representatives and other foreigners in Lhasa viz. Consul General for India, Consul General for Nepal, Bhutan Agent and the Kashmiri Muslims, to apprise them of the situation and the decisions taken. Accordingly they visited us first.
Realising that it might create misunderstanding with the Chinese, in the first instance we snowed our disinclination to meet them as it was their internal matter. On their instance, however, the Consul-General met them but offered no comments. Later the deputation visited the Consul General for Nepal, Bhutan Agent and the Kashmiri Muslims. The situation was fast deteriorating and people fearing danger to the life of Dalai Lama assumed the responsibility of guarding Norbulingka with whatever arms and ammunition they had. On the assurance given by the Dalai Lama that he would not go to the party the public gathered outside Norbulingka formed a procession and went round the streets of Lhasa shouting anti-Chinese slogans and declaring themselves as independent.
The things started happening quickly from 11th March onward the Tibetan officials (both lay and monk) held series of meetings, the Tibetans destroyed the bridge on Chinghai Tibet highway on north of Potala, destroyed Water Controlling Station on Kyi-chu-river on south of Norbulingka, Tibetan troops were posted at strategic points and in the outlying parks around Norbulingka, the Tibetan guards of the Kusung Regiment discarded their Chinese dress and put on Tibetan-dress, voluntary armed guards from the public also joined the Tibetan soldiers in Norbulingka for doing the guard duties round the clock, the Tibetan employees of the Chinese and students of the Chinese schools were asked to abandon their jobs and to leave schools.
As a result the Chinese schools closed and majority of the Tibetan employees with Chinese left their jobs. Pro-Chinese officials (very few in number) and the Tibetan employees who did not leave their jobs, with their families were asked by the Chinese to move to the Chinese Military Headquarters or other areas which were fully guarded by Chinese soldiers. The meetings which were being hold in Norbulingka by Tibetan officials were also attended by the Representatives of the committee. What actually transpired in those meetings is difficult to say but we understand that they mostly discussed how to approach the Chinese and as far as possible to have peaceful negotiations but use of force if necessity arose was also agreed upon.
Since all the Shapes and other high ranking Tibetan officials were attending those meetings it became evident that Tibetan Government had now openly challenged the Chinese rule and were supporting the people’s movement. It is quite likely that in these meetings it was visualized that peaceful negotiations with the Chinese might not be possible as the latter would never agree to their demand of free Tibet and withdrawal of Chinese from Tibet and for that the Tibetans thought it essential to prepare themselves for an armed retaliation.
|The battle for the Ramoche temple|
Nearly 10 thousand monks from various monasteries in an around Lhasa and lay people from the town volunteered, themselves. There was a report at that time that the villagers around Lhasa also volunteered to fight for the cause of freedom and life of Dalai Lama. Regular public meetings were held in the town and at Sho, below Potala, where young and old of both sexes took oath to fight against the Chinese and offer one person from each house.
A Women’s procession was also organized and about 5,000 women visited this Consulate and requested that we should accompany them to the Chinese to witness their talks. We politely refused to accede to their request. Similarly they requested Consul General for Nepal, Bhutan Agent and other foreigners in Lhasa. But none of them agreed to accompany them.
So far the Chinese had not taken any action even though there was provocation on one or two occasions. They, however, ordered their personnel to remain within their barracks and they tried to persuade the public through loud-speakers not to be misled by bad elements. Tibetan officials and Shapes (Surkhang, Shasur and Liushar) were severely criticized and blamed for the trouble. The non-interference attitude of Chinese was puzzling the Tibetans. We feel that the Chinese were preparing themselves and waiting for reinforcements and probably also for orders from Peking. It may be stated here that the Chinese had already enough troops in Lhasa but they were very young and inexperienced. The Chinese probably also wanted additional troops to crush the uprising not only in Lhasa but all over Tibet.
By 17th March all the strategic places between Norbulingka and Chakpuri/Potala were occupied either by Tibetan soldiers or volunteers. Since our area happens to be in between Norbulingka and Chakpuri number of volunteers and soldiers could be seen with arms and ammunitions at nearby places. Some of them for their convenience used to cross through our area though we tried various methods to stop them.
A rumour was afloat on 17th March that the Chinese had fired three mortor shells from their motor station in Chandannagar which is on north-east of Norbulingka towards latter. Between the 11th March and the evening of the 19th March the Tibetan troops sounded alarms number of accidentally by the in-experienced volunteers or fired to test their weapons or tried their skill on target shooting.
On 18th morning we came to know that the Dalai Lama had left Norbulingka on the previous night and was proceeding towards Lhoka area. We also noticed that number of Tibetan troops had considerably reduced and their places taken up by volunteers. Now it looked that fighting would start any time.
What actually made the Dalai Lama leave suddenly can only be told by him or his advisers but we feel that his advisers probably came to know of some plans of the Chinese that put fear in them and made them leave. The plan might have been about the whole sale arrest by the Chinese of all the Tibetan officials and others taking part in the movement. We don’t think that the departure was decided on the 17th March only. The Dalai Lama might not have thought of it but his advisers must have planned it immediately after the trouble started on the 10th March, 1959.
On the 17th March there was rumour that some Khampas had come to Liu Dzong about 6 to 8 miles from Lhasa on the south bank of Kyichu river on the way to Lhoka area. These Khampas probably came to escort the Dalai Lama and party upto Lhoka, from this it appears that the Plan was made earlier. The other reason could be that the Tibetans had a mind to attack Chinese positions and before that they wanted Dalai Lama to be away to a safe area. At that time Lhoka area was safest. They must have also thought that if situation worsened they would be able to take Dalai Lama to India from there easily (the actual events prove this).
The situation continued to be very tense on 18th and 19th March. All sorts of rumours were afloat, such as that Chinese had announced that they would finish Lhasa in one hour and they were only waiting for an opportune moment. There was also a report that Chinese had thrown stones on the Women’s procession on the morning of 19th March and injured few of them.
On the night of 19th March we went to bed as usual but the inner feelings were, after seeing the feverish activities of the Tibetans during the past two days, that the hour of danger was not far off. To avoid any confusion in the event of any trouble, I had issued clear instructions a couple of days earlier to all the members of staff to shut immediately to the main Consulate building when the we had started keeping our dresses handy during night so that when there was any danger we could immediately dress up and take shelter on the ground floor. When we heard bursts of fire from the automatic weapons at 01:50 hours local time on 20th March, it was not a surprise to us. From my bed-room window I saw continuous flash coming from a light machine gun which was firing from a position on the bund along the Kyi-chu river about 8 to 9 hundred yards away; from our observations during day we knew that the Tibetans were occupying all area on South of our Consulate upto bank of Kyi-chu river and as such the gun firing must be of Tibetans.
The fire from all types of weapons including heavy guns could be heard from all sides. It is very difficult to say as to who fired the first shot but as the firing started from Norbulingka side (this is also stated by one Shan Chao in his diary published in Peking Review dated May 5, 1959) it seems that the Chinese had sent some troops on the other side of the river with intention either to surround Norbulingka or reconnoitre the position of Tibetans who on seeing the Chinese troops started firing.
If the Tibetans were to start they would not start firing in their own area without the presence of Chinese and should in normal course had gone forward and started the battle where the Chinese were holding the ground. The intense firing continued for over an hour. At about 6 AM. some Tibetans came to the Consulate and among them I recognized Khenchung Thupten Zangpo and a junior monk official of Kundeling Monastery. Khenchung Thupten requested for our intervention saying that it would be disastrous for Tibetans if the fighting continued. He also mentioned that uptil then they had an upper-hand in the fighting. We regretted our inability to do anything and simply told him that we would inform Government of India about the situation. We thought the things had quietened down but suddenly at 8 A.M. the firing of mortors and heavy guns resumed and this time it was more intensive than earlier.
Since it was coming from Lhasa side, it was evident that the Chinese had now launched an whole sale attack on the Tibetans. Artillery from both sides was in action and the targets were not far from our area. The Chinese artillery was aiming at Tibetan’s gun position on the south hill of Chakpuri [Chakpori] and Kundeling Monastery. We could also see that the Tibetan heavy gun was also firing from its position on the south hill of Chakpuri towards Chinese Military Headquarters.
The volume of the fire was increasing every moment. In the meantime I had spoken to the Political Officer in Sikkim on the radio telephone and from the wireless station I could see the shells bursting on east of our area, about 100 years from where I was speaking. Seeing the danger I ordered the wireless operator to shift to the main building where I had already kept a spare set for emergency purposes but due to some technical difficulties we could not open our set that day. By 11 A.M. local time we noticed that Tibetan heavy gun had stopped firing, probably its ammunition stock had exhausted and Tibetans on Chakpuri hill started retreating towards Norbulingka. Soon after the Chinese occupied the Chakpuri and its side hills.
Booms of the guns and fire from automatics could be heard from north and south-side indicating that the battle was in full swing. From Chakpuri Chinese started firing from their machine guns towards Norbulingka and bullets were hitting parks south of our area, our area and parks after Kundeling Dzasa’s house. Some bullets also hit the Consulate building and a Tibetan water carrier who happened to come out of her quarter for naturals call was hit in the chest – she died after two days. Now the Chinese artillery and armoured cars started moving towards Norbulingka both on south as well as on the north side of our area.
At about 2 P.M. local time the Chinese artillery started shelling Norbulingka and in the meantime their troops covered by armoured cars moved along slowly. The Tibetans in the parks south of our area were still putting up resistance and only after Chinese had intensified their fire that they retreated and the Chinese were able to proceed beyond our area by about 4 P.M. During the day many Tibetans withdrew to our area with their bag and baggages and requested us for shelter but as they were armed and the situation was such that had we given them shelter we might have very well became the target of the Chinese guns and as such we persuaded them to leave our area. They, however, left behind their cycles, beddings, rations etc.
The Chinese troops entered our area at about 4:30 P.M. and according to our men the Chinese fixed their guns to fire at the main building but on seeing the Indian national flag withdraw and proceeded towards Kundeling Dzasa’s house. On their way they fired at the residential quarters of our staff and the hospital. The firing was deliberate and aimed and it was only sheer luck that the inmates escaped unhurt. From the Chinese soldiers actions of not firing at the main building prove that they had instructions not to fire at the Consulate and their action of firing at the residences was probably due to their ignorance of the extent of our area and took these Houses as belonging to Kundeling Dzasa.
Bullets from the Chinese machine guns passed through our area from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. and about 60 of them including the aimed ones had hit the Consulate buildings and later we picked up over 100 sharpenels from the Consulate garden and from the immediate vicinity and roof of the main building where we all except for few members of staff who due to intense firing could not shift were taking shelter.
By about 5:30 P.M. we noticed green very light signals fired from Norbulingka side indicating that they had complete control over these areas and the firing ceased. Later we saw heavy vehicles running on the south of our area. They were clearing their own casualties and this carried on till midnight. Though it was quiet around our area but the fire from heavy guns and automatic guns could be heard from north and east sides.
We could not know exactly what was happening in Lhasa and elsewhere but we could hear the fire of heavy guns and automatic weapons throughout the night of 21/22 March and this went on till 23rd March. Large number of Tibetans was taken prisoners – nearly 5,000 – and about 2 to 3 thousand killed or wounded. For continuous three to four days we noticed smoke coming from the Norbulingka side, probably the Chinese were burning the dead bodies. It is not possible for us to estimate the number of casualties on the Chinese side but they seemed to be heavy.
On the 21st March afternoon, Vice Director of Foreign-Bureau came in an armoured car from south side (this is not the normal route to our area) and from this it seemed that the Chinese had not yet been able to clear completely the Lhasa Norbulingka road on our north. He besides telling us that who local Government had revolted and it was an internal matter and no force on earth could take Tibet from China, asked us to shift to Foreign Bureau on grounds of safety.
We told him that we would prefer to stay on our own premises and if necessary they could arrange protection here itself. He also told that where their troops were stationed they would afford protection to the foreign nationals but where there were none he advised that they should withdraw. He wanted me to ask my nationals to strictly abide by the orders of their Government and stay indoors where the rebellious elements were active.
On the 22nd March about midday one Chinese Military Officer along with few soldiers came and informed us that he would be posting guards around our area. Few Tibetans who had managed to stay in the servants quarters surrendered to him. The Chinese officer requested that he would like to see the servants quarters to make sure that no bad element was hiding there to which we agreed. We were completely cut off from out-side as guards would not allow any one to come in or go out of our area. They would not even allow our water carriers to go out to fetch drinking water.
On the 25th March I was called to Foreign Bureau, travelling in their car, and told that as the rebellion had been put down basically there was no need for us to shift to Foreign Bureau. During my trip to Foreign Bureau and back I noticed that a considerable damage had been done to the Kundeling Monastery, some damage to Medical College at Chakpuri Monastery, Potala was hit at 7 to 8 places and the Sho village had received a considerable quantity of fire from automatic weapons as we could see that white wash of nearly all the houses had come off completely.
At the Foreign Bureau I noticed and was also told that Tibetans had done quite a lot of damage to their buildings from the artillery fire from Ramoche monastery. On the same day one of our nationals, Miss Sahabir along with her sister-in-law, managed to come to our area and from her we learnt that the Chinese had destroyed some portions of the main cathedral, shelled houses of Tibetan officials, took prisoners and the people were made to surrender through threats that the main cathedral would be completely destroyed. In the mean time Chinese had set up a Military Control Commission started taking census in and around Lhasa.
Strict restrictions were imposed on the movements of people and no one was allowed to leave Lhasa. A dusk to dawn curfew was also promulgated. Soon after the situation in Lhasa was in hand they sent their troops towards Lhoka and according to Chinese they took complete control of that area by about 18th April. From whatever we could see it area by about 18th April.
From whatever we could see it appears that they deployed a large force and with the help of air-force suppressed the Tibetans in the Lhoka area. In Lhasa the Chinese arrested practically all the Tibetan officials and number of other Tibetans, especially traders and intelligentsia on slightest suspicion and they are still hold under detention. Since no proper system of justice exists there is no question of any appeal. Anyone arrested is doomed for months together whether he is guilty or not. During the period of detention one is made to do manual work.
The Chinese confiscated millions of rupees worth of property of the Tibetan officials who either left for India or took part in the rebellion and also of those monasteries from where operations against them were carried out. The confiscated Tsampa (barley atta) was distributed by the Chinese among the beggars and destitutes and to this they gave much publicity to show that they were kind. Repairs to main-Cathedral and Norbulingka was started in order to show that they had respect for the religious places.
Blame for all these happenings has been thrown on bad elements. Simultaneously they started their propaganda campaign against the Tibetan officials, imperialists and reactionary elements. Besides the street corner meetings which were routine for a month or so rallies were arranged on 15th April and 1st May in which locals including monks from various monasteries were ordered to joint People out of fear attended and listened to the speeches made by the pro-Chinese Tibetans and Chinese. The speeches were centered round one theme i.e. the Tibetan Government and its officials in collusion with the foreign reactionaries were responsible for all this trouble.
The Chinese also rounded up all the Khampas, Amdowas, Sinkiangese, Golokpas and many Chinese civilians who were doing trade or other petty business and sent them back to their respective areas. Their families were also given option to follow them. The prisoners captured in Lhoka area, who were mostly Khampas were also sent away from Lhasa. Though the Chinese said that they were being returned to their homes – but people feared that they were sent to work on China-Tibet railway.
All the able bodied prisoners are being utilized as forced labour either at Nanchen Hydro Electric Project or other construction works. There are reports that in addition to the population census Chinese are collecting detailed information regarding private property owned by an individual including number of heads of cattle etc. all – over Tibet. The Chinese are showing utter disregard for the will of the Tibetans and are going ahead with their plans for in Tibet on the similar lines as in China proper.
The Peking and Lhasa Radios were silent about happenings in Tibet till the 28th March, 1959, though the trouble had started from the 10th March and the free world Radios were giving news about fighting from the 20th March. The Chinese, only after taking complete control of the situation in Lhasa, announced on the 28th March, 1959, the State Council’s order asking the Tibet Military Area Command in Tibet to put down rebellion, dissolved the Tibet local Government and asked the Preparatory Committee to take its – functions. The same day the Peking Radio also broadcast the proclamation of the Tibet Military Area Command and the Hsinhua [Xinhua] News Agency’s communiqué on rebellion in Tibet.
The communiqué said that out of total population of 1,200,000 only about 20,000 were rebel bandits, in other words nationalists, and this included some people from Kham. We feel that the actual position was other way round and not some Khampas but many of them and large number of Amdowas, Golokpas had joined the crusade, some actively and openly and others gave their moral support.
The anti-Chinese feelings existed all over Tibet since Chinese entry in 1950 but only bayonets of the Peoples Liberation Army were keeping these suppressed. If the broad masses of the Tibetans were with them, as the Chinese claim, then there was no reason to have military rule all over Tibet as they did not feel the necessity in Shigatse, seat of the Panchen Lama and where they were confident that nothing would go against them, and also when the rebellion in Lhasa and Lhoka had been quelled.
They suspected every Tibetan and according to talk of the town-it-was only after threats and show of force that the Chinese were able to establish their military administrations in other places in Tibet after establishing it in Lhasa by force. Even now except for their hirelings they do not trust Tibetans in general. The dusk to down curfew continues and the general security measures have not-so-far been relaxed. Except for about 500 prisoners the rest still continue to be in detention. The prisoners released were probably unfit for manual work and their release effected for propaganda campaign to show to Tibetans their magnanimity towards the prisoners.
Almost 99 per cent of the Tibetans did not want Chinese rule though many of them were leading hard life under the feudal system. The main reason for this was the ‘fear’ that the Godless Chinese Communists, not allow them to profess their religion after they completely took over control of things in Tibet. They were prepared to sacrifice everything for religion and for life of the Dalai Lama. The peoples challenge met with failure and proved disastrous for Tibet. The failure was mainly due to inexperience both on part of the leaders and the masses.
The people should have on no account resorted to an armed revolution and similarly at no cost the Tibetan Government should have associated with the movement and encouraged the armed up-rising. The Chinese used force with no reserve for carrying out reforms in adjoining provinces of Tibet including Kham, Eastern Tibet but as for Central Tibet they were careful and as far as possible wanted to use peaceful means i.e. by winning over Tibetans by hook or crook. The reason for this was probably that while they could carry out their reforms by force in those places without outside world knowing about their methods but in case of latter they knew that things would leak out through foreign missions, traders and pilgrims going to India and Nepal and this would bring bad name and material for propaganda for free world.
They were quite aware of the opposition for reforms and for that they postponed these for six years from 1st January, 1957, with a provision that even after six years these would be carried only if people were prepared for it. Whether their offer of postponement was genuine or not it is difficult to say but one thing is clear that the Chinese never lost any opportunity to enforce on Tibetans any item of reforms and they kept a critical eye on all Tibetan officials and day to day functioning of the Tibet Government.
An incident in Gyantse gave them an opportunity to introduce a resolution in the Preparatory Committee exempting Tibetan employees and students from payment of taxes to their Tibetan masters. No Tibetan official could be promoted or granted leave for going outside Tibet on business or pilgrimage, unless it was approved by the Chinese. These coupled with the news of maltreatment to the high ranking Lamas and others by the Chinese in the liberated areas (Lamas and dignitaries being used for manual work, deprived of all privileges and properties etc.) was worrying the Tibetans in Central Tibet as the promised period of the postponement of reforms was coming to an end.
They preferred to risk their lives rather than to undergo the Chinese ‘Liberation’. On the other hand the Chinese were looking for an opportunity, if possible an armed uprising, to take things in their hands, and unfortunate for Tibet such an opportunity did arise on 10th March.
The Tibetan’s apprehension of Chinese way of treatment was not wrong as the events after the revolution are proving. The high ranking officials and Lamas, who could not escape to India or stayed behind after the Dalai Lama’s departure, are being subjected to humiliation. Servants, subjects and disciples are forced to beat their former masters and Gurus. They are also employed for manual work including carriage of rubbish etc. for manure. Beating in one case was so severe that the person died the next day while another high ranking official (Tsarong Dzasa) died couple of days before he was scheduled for such a treatment, probably on account of shock.
They have a mind to eliminate the upper class as it is alleged that this class was responsible for the uprising and luring workers and peasants to rally around them.
We have no authentic information as to what actually transpired in Lhoka area, which was under the complete control of the Khampas, when the Chinese forces carried a three prong drive against the defenders of the faith there. According to the Chinese 2000 rebels were either killed, wounded or captured, many surrendered while some fled to India.
The Chinese are adopting all methods to bring the Tibetans into their fold and it is feared that in due course the Tibetans will lose their individual identity and culture. The Chinese do not even call the Tibetans as Tibetans. Many Tibetans have already done away with their pig-tails and Bakoos (Tibetan cloak) and instead started wearing Chinese dress, to please Chinese masters. Unless something extraordinary happens we do not think the Tibetans have any chance of getting independence or real regional autonomy in foreseeable future as the Chinese have now established themselves so firmly that they will not care about anything even world opinion and will go ahead with their policy of annihilating the Tibetan race.
They would not bother about the Tibetans who have left Tibet, not even for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They would write off these as traitors. They, however, would not mind Dalai Lama’s return on their terms. The Chinese are not missing him as in his place they have Panchen Lama who harps their tune and is good enough to fill in the formalities of the office and as religious pontiff. As for the broad masses, who have great faith in the Dalai Lama, will under intimidation accept the Panchen Lama as their religious guide in due course of time Chinese are also taking steps to see that the religion does not play an important role in the life of the Tibetans in the coming generation. For this they are vigorously enrolling children of all classes and imparting education on the communist lines.
The future of Tibet is dark and only a miracle can save Tibet from the clutches of the Chinese Communist Colonialists.
(Source: National Archives of India)