A year since Dalai Lama’s historic transition

March 8th, 2012 - 3:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Dharamsala, March 8 (IANS) Every year, Tibetan exiles worldwide remember March 10 — the day when the Chinese launched a crackdown to suppress an uprising in Tibet in 1959. This year, it will also be the first anniversary of the Dalai Lama ending a 369-year-old tradition by splitting his spiritual and political powers.

Officials of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), based in this northern Indian hill station, said the decision of the 76-year-old Nobel laureate to shed political and administrative powers was announced by him here during his address at the anniversary of the Tibet National Uprising Day last March.

Most of the powers now rest with the democratically elected, 43-year-old Harvard educated Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay.

“My most cherished aspiration has been fulfilled. I have passed on the political responsibility to Sangay, the democratically elected Kalon Tripa (prime minister),” the Dalai Lama had said soon after Sangay took the oath of office Aug 8, 2011.

The Dalai Lama, the global face of the Tibetan exile movement, left the exiled Tibetans in a state of flux by announcing that he would hand over political power to an elected leadership.

The spiritual guru, revered by the Tibetans as a ‘living god’, asked the parliament-in-exile that necessary amendments be made to the charter for Tibetans in exile to pave the way for devolving his formal authority to the elected leader.

As the budget session of parliament began March 14 last year, the Nobel laureate’s message was read out: “My intention to devolve political authority derives neither from a wish to shirk responsibility nor because I am disheartened. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run.”

A few days later, he told a gathering here: “The rule by spiritual leaders or the rule by kings is an outdated concept. In reality, I have been describing myself as a semi-retired person for the last 10 years.”

After months of hectic deliberations, both within and outside the parliament, the Dalai Lama May 29 signed the amendment of the charter of Tibetans vesting the CTA and in particular its democratic leadership organs with all political powers and responsibilities formerly held by him.

This brings to an end the centuries’ old tradition of the Dalai Lamas holding both spiritual and temporal powers since the fifth Dalai Lama in 1642.

But now, with the Dalai Lama draping only the spiritual robe, he ceases to have any say in the political arena.

CTA spokesperson Lobsang Choedak told IANS that prime minister Sangay would address the Tibetans and the internal community at the national uprising anniversary.

Political observers here say the Dalai Lama, who was forced along with some 80,000 Tibetans to flee his homeland March 17, 1959, after successfully trudging the journey of shedding political roles, is now wishing for another journey-to return to his homeland Tibet.

“Yes, I remain optimistic that I will be able to return to Tibet. China is in the process of changing. Besides, I am not seeking separation from China,” the Nobel laureate wrote on his official website.

Even the Dalai Lama’s first political successor Sangay believes the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

“I have never been allowed to set foot in Tibet. My late father, like many of our parents, could not return to Tibet. Together, we will ensure the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, reunite our people, and restore freedom in Tibet,” Sangay said after taking oath of office of prime minister.

It was in 1959 that the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, whom China calls a separatist, fled Tibet after an anti-communist uprising. He then headed a Tibetan government-in-exile which never won recognition from any country.

India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans.

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