Young Tibetans yearn to reclaim homeland

March 10th, 2009 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Balaji
Bylakuppe (Karnataka), March 10 (IANS) As exiled Tibetans around the world remember the failed uprising against the Chinese 50 years ago, in their largest settlement in southern India the descendants of a lost generation still yearn to reclaim the homeland their parents fled.

Having been born and brought up in their adopted home thousands of kilometres from the mountain land of their ancestors, the young Tibetans living in Karnataka as second and third generation refugees hope to make the dream of their parents come true and return to Tibet.

India has the largest population of Tibetan exiles, an estimated 120,000, of whom around 40,000 live in three sprawling resettlement camps here.

“Though we are at home away from our real home, we have inherited the spirit of our parents and godfather the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet one day with pride in our hearts and heads high,” said Tashi Wangdu, the present representative of the first settlement of exiled Tibetans in India here, about 220 km from Bangalore.

The Gen-next Tibetans want the Indian government to facilitate their return to their motherland.

Drawing a historical parallel to India’s freedom struggle that lasted about 90 years (1857-1947), Wangdu sounded upbeat that the services and sacrifices of the first and second generation Tibetans in exile would force China to yield to their main demand, autonomy in Tibet, sooner or later.

“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,” Wangdu told IANS.

Restless to shed the refugee tag their parents were compelled to wear life-long in their adopted land, the young Tibetans want the Indian government to grant citizenship to those born here and empower them with voting rights to carry on the struggle for reclaiming Tibet as their birth right.

“How long can we afford to be refugees and far away from our motherland? Though our kids are proud of being born and brought up here, we cannot give up the bigger cause of our parents and the Dalai Lama. Our very identity and preservation of our culture, religion (Buddhism), heritage, tradition and language are at stake,” Sonam Dorjee, one of the first Tibetan refugees in this sprawling settlement, told IANS at the magnificent golden temple of the Buddha in the centre of the camp.

Dorjee, who came to India along with the Dalai Lama in March 1959, said as first generation refugees, they had to start life from scratch, as the Indian government gave them forest lands in the foothills of the rich bio-diverse Western Ghats in southern Karnataka.

“Many of us fled Tibet empty-handed. Except a few clothes and some personal belongings, we had nothing,” Dorjee said.

At the directive of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, then Mysore state chief minister S. Nijalingappa allotted 3,000 acres of land for resettling about 3,000 exiled Tibetans initially.

With a steady flow of Tibetan refugees over time, an additional 2,300 acres of adjacent land was given in 1969 to accommodate them at Lugsan, the Tibetan name for Bylakuppe.

About 18,000 Tibetans, including 9,000 monks and nuns, dwell in this largest resettlement camp in India that houses two monasteries, a few temples with the Buddha and Tibetan deities, schools, hospitals, clinics, houses, hostels and shops.

To provide shelter for more refugees, three more camps were set up in the state.

“In all, Karnataka has the largest Tibetan population in the country. Of the total 120,000 refugees in India, about 40,000 reside in the three main camps of the state, while the rest are scattered across northern India,” Wangdu added.

(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at fakir.b@ians.in)

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