Anger, resentment in Delhi’s Tibetan settlements

March 18th, 2008 - 3:47 pm ICT by admin  

By Anuradha Shukla
New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) Their families left their homes half a century ago. But their homeland - Tibet - means a lot to them. And Tibetan refugees in Delhi are seething with anger over the violent Chinese crackdown in their homeland. In the capital’s biggest Tibetan conclave, young Tibetan men are huddled in small groups animatedly discussing the way China has tried to crush massive and violent protests in Tibet, leaving at least 10 people dead.

And although their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is still using diplomatic language vis-a-vis China’s Communist rulers, the exiles at Majnu ka Tila, close to Delhi University, are extremely bitter.

“The life of a refugee is very traumatic, and we have been facing the trauma for five decades. But even away from our land, our protests for free Tibet will continue,” said Jampa, a man who runs a small eatery at momos, thupas and soups.

Majnu ka Tila is home to an estimated 5,000 Tibetans. Almost all the elders here escaped Tibet with the Dalai Lama in 1959 following a failed anti-China uprising.

A young woman student, Dolma, was equally passionate.

“For decades we are struggling for freedom. After the loss of nearly 1.7 million lives, our community in exile cannot sit silent,” Dolma told IANS.

“We have suffered in silence. Now we will pay the Chinese back even if it requires use of violent means,” she said.

Embarrassed ahead of the Olympics due in August, China’s rulers have ordered a vicious crackdown in Tibet following this month’s protests that Beijing says have claimed 10 lives. Tibetans say the death toll is much more.

The protests - and the crackdown - have ignited international interest, with several countries condemning China. Tibetan protests have also erupted in India, home to the world’s largest Tibetan community in exile.

Said Yang Zom, in his late 30s who described himself as a businessman: “Whatever has happened in Tibet is inhuman. International organisations cannot be blind to the incidents in Tibet.”

Majnu ka Tila is a maze of narrow alleys lined with vendors and eateries and hundreds of homes. The place is known for Tibetan cuisines. The area is replete now with Tibetan flags and hand-written cloth banners denouncing China.

On Monday, the area’s famous eating joints - hugely popular with students and tourists - were shut as Tibetans joined a noisy protest near the Jantar Mantar observatory in the heart of the capital to denounce the Chinese crackdown in their native land.

The mood was no different at the Tibetan monastery on the banks of the river Yamuna.

The small, congested Tibetan market inside the monastery complex is usually filled with people, mostly students, buying cheap Tibetan and Chinese items. Now they are doing a different business.

The shopkeepers are now busy painting T-shirts with anti-China slogans.

“I am painting it for the protesters and people who are fighting for the Tibetan cause,” explained Tobdam Tsering, a shopkeeper in his 60s.

“Life is better here but still we are refugees,” he said. “Maybe my children can go back to a free Tibet.

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