‘Free Tibet’, they chant as Dalai Lama holds out hope (Roundup)

March 10th, 2009 - 9:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Dharamsala/New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) Yearning to return to their lost homeland - ‘the Roof of the World’ - thousands of Tibetans who live in exile across India Tuesday marked 50 years of the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation with prayers and protests while their supreme spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, held out the promise of hope.
It didn’t matter that hundreds of them have never even set foot in their fabled land. Young or old, in New Delhi or at the headquarters of their Tibetan-government-in-exile in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, Tibetans bonded over a common dream and vowed to keep their struggle alive.

“I always say that we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” the 74-year-old Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader revered the world over, told Tibetans in their native tongue at the Tsuglag Khang or main temple in Mcleodganj near Dharamsala.

“Whether we look at it from the global perspective or in the context of events in China, there are reasons for us to hope for a quick resolution of the issue of Tibet,” he said. “However, we must also prepare ourselves well in case the Tibetan struggle goes on for a long time,” the Dalai Lama said.

The Tibetan youth listened to him in rapt attention before marching till Dharamsala, carrying “Free Tibet” banners, posters, headbands and the Tibetan flag. About 100,000 Tibetans live in India.

The Dalai Lama said he would continue to pursue the “middle path” approach despite China’s crackdown on Tibetans but accused China of unleashing repression on peaceful Tibetans.

He said his decision to leave Tibet in March 1959 was the “right decision”. He has lived in exile in India ever since.

“The past 50 years have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet. Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them,” he said.

It was also a day when the Tibetan cabinet-in-exile challenged the leadership in China to test the popularity of the Dalai Lama in Tibet, saying he was the undisputed leader of all Tibetans.

While there were reports that their homeland was virtually sealed off to foreigners by China amid tension over the 50th anniversaries of the 1959 uprising and violent protests in Tibet last year, Tibetans in India made it a day to remember.

Be it Bangalore or Bhubaneswar or New Delhi, they held rallies to mark March 10.

“Free Tibet” slogans rang out in the Indian capital and many Tibetans began a fast for 50 hours, 50 minutes and 50 seconds to mark the occasion.

“Brutal force can never overpower truth. As the world comes to know about the Tibetan cause, our resilience has become stronger,” said Shelly Norbu, a school student taking part in the march in Delhi.

Wearing T-shirts, caps and bandanas with “Free Tibet” and “See you in Tibet” written on them, the marchers held the red-yellow-blue Tibetan flags high.

Many were also grateful to India for giving them shelter.

“We want to thank India for its hospitality. There are many Indians who support our cause and have walked with us during our protests,” Norbu said.

Tashi Wangdu, a Tibetan in Bangalore, said: “To have survived for five decades as refugees in make-shift camps in hostile conditions and harsh tropical climate as against the cooler climes of the Himalayas is a measure of our resilience and determination to regain our homeland through peaceful or non-violent means in the true spirit of our hoary tradition, heritage and profound teachings of the Buddha.”

The Dalai Lama too thanked India for its support. He said the Indian government had been “over cautious” on the Tibet issue due to its own limitations with China.

The occasion was momentous, as a smiling Dalai Lama acknowledged, saying if he could choose his time of death, “it would not be tonight”!

-Indo-Asian News Service

pg/vt

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