Haunting memories of a former Tibetan prisoner (Feature)September 20th, 2009 - 1:36 pm ICT by IANS
By Mayank Aggarwal
Dharamsala, Sep 20 (IANS) More than two decades have passed since she was released from prison by the Chinese authorities, but the painful memories of her jail stay still haunt her. Eighty-year-old Ama Adhe, a Tibetan living in India, now spends her day in prayer.
“I have seen independent Tibet and have witnessed the cruelty of the Chinese forces during our struggle. In 1958, the Chinese forces arrested me along with 300 other women for supporting the struggle and were taken to a jail in China,” said Adhe, who used to reside in eastern Tibet.
She was part of the Tibetan struggle that led to the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the communist regime of China. As Chinese forces crushed the uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans left Tibet and sought refuge in India and other parts of the world.
At present, the population of exiled Tibetans is over 140,000, of which about 100,000 are based in India.
Adhe recalled her own story even as a fresh batch of 40 Tibetan refugees, nine of them former political prisoners like her, has reached Dharamsala - the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Himachal Pradesh.
“The conditions in jail were inhuman for anyone to live. We were given either very little food or no food for days and 150 women died within one-and-a-half-years. Many of us used to eat the soles of our shoes made of leather,” she said.
“After three years, only four of us remained alive. While we were being shifted to a prison in Tibet, I saw a pile of bodies. I was horrified,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks and trembling hands.
She was released in 1985 after spending 27 years in prison. Her husband had died before she was imprisoned. Her son fell into a river and died while she was being taken away by the Chinese forces. Her daughter was taken care of by a friend.
Chinese forces released her on condition that she would not reveal anything about her time in jail to anyone.
“My daughter asked me to stay with her. But I wanted to tell the world the condition of Chinese rule in Tibet and highlight the inhuman treatment and misery of Tibetan political prisoners,” Adhe told a visiting IANS correspondent.
She tried to come to India in 1986 and 1987 but failed. She finally reached India in 1988. She met the supreme Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who asked her to tell the ‘truth’ to the world. After this she wrote a book, “Voice That Remains”, narrating her experience.
She now lives in McLeodganj in Dharamsala along with her second husband and spends her time praying. Adhe is one among hundreds of ex-political prisoners living in exile in India.
“We have around 500 ex-political prisoners registered with us who are living in India. There are several others who are not registered with us,” said Ngawang Woeber of the Gu-Chu-Sum movement, which works for the welfare of the political prisoners of Tibet.
“Thousands of Tibetans are still lodged in prison in Tibet and have been given a punishment ranging from a few years of imprisonment to the death sentence. There are several who have spent more than two decades of their life inside prison,” said Woeber, who himself has been a political prisoner.
“During the 2008 uprising, thousands of Tibetans were arrested, 30 percent of whom were women. Youths were involved in large numbers in the revolt this time around. Eighty percent of the protesters belonged to the 18-35 age group,” he added.
“Our people are suffering inside their own country. They don’t even have recent pictures of the Dalai Lama.”
Over six million Tibetans are believed to be living in Tibet.
(Mayank Aggarwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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