Young Tibetans emulate Gandhi for a free Tibet

April 10th, 2008 - 11:14 am ICT by admin  

(Feature)
By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) They have never been to Tibet. But for young Tibetans born and living in India, the passion for their motherland endures. From peace marches and hunger strikes to poster campaigns, they are doing it all - since last month’s violence in Lhasa. “Yes, we have never seen Tibet. That is precisely why we feel so strongly about the cause of our motherland. We are seeking our identity,” explained Lobsang Chophel, 15, from the hill town of Dharamsala, speaking in broken Hindi.

Chophel was among the 200 protestors who took part in the ‘March to Tibet’ from Dharamsala, the Himalayan abode of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile, to New Delhi. The month-long march ended Wednesday.

According to Tenzin Choeying, head of “Students of Free Tibet”, more than 70 of the 200 who took part in the march were in the 20s.

“There are generations of Tibetans who have been born and brought up in exile in India, like me,” the 29-year-old told IANS. “Ever since I was a child, I have heard stories of how my relatives and family members were tortured and forced to flee Tibet.

“Stories of pain when they first came to India, the diseases which engulfed them, fill our childhood. All these make us feel like going back to the land we belong to. No wonder so many youngsters are taking part in campaigns for a free Tibet,” Choeying told IANS in a gurudwara near Majnu ka Tila in Delhi where the marchers are camping.

“Students of Free Tibet” has over 25,000 members worldwide. In New Delhi, it has 300.

Woeser Sherab, 27, pointed out why Tibetans were mesmerised by Mahatma Gandhi.

“We are like any other human being fighting for freedom,” he said. “Even Gandhiji believed in non-violence. But look what happened with initiatives like the Dandi march. With peace marches and poster and Internet campaigns, that’s what we are trying to emulate.”

For Pema Richeson, a 24-year-old US-educated girl, marches and protests mean more of soul searching than anything else.

“I was adopted by an American couple when I was very young. All I know about my biological parents is that my mother was from Sikkim and my father a Tibetan.

“Despite knowing so little, when I went to Dharamsala in October last year, I was given such a warm welcome by the Tibetan community that I instantly felt at home. I wanted to know more about my ancestors. Therefore this journey became a medium of soul searching,” she said of the Dharamsala-Delhi march.

That the young Tibetans are more educated and more aware about worldly affairs than their ancestors also helps the young Tibetans to add fire to the movement.

“The Internet is a great tool to connect and mobilize people. For instance, Bigadda.com, a social networking site, has a community with the participation of over 200 young Tibetans. Here they discuss issues, debates and plan strategies to make their voices heard,” Choeying said.

Printing T-shirts and headbands with slogans of free Tibet, distributing pamphlets and posters to protest against the Beijing Olympic torch relay, the initiatives by the youngsters have helped mobilise support, not only from the Tibetans but others as well.

Anjan Sharma, a second year graduation student of Delhi University, was one of the many non-Tibetan protestors who gathered in the campus for a ‘Free Tibet’ campaign last week.

“I have a number of friends who are Tibetans and I strongly feel for their cause and support it. That’s why I distributed pamphlets and raised slogans for a free Tibet,” Sharma said.

“It’s definitely more than just a human rights issue,” added Smriti Gupta, also an Indian and a student of the same university.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.p@ians.in)

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