No probe request received, says India

In an unprecedented move, China has asked India to investigate a 32-year-old monk in Dharamsala for allegedly instigating two self-immolation protests in Sichuan province.

Government sources in Delhi, however, denied having received any such request so far. But Tibetans living in New Delhi set their machinery in motion, traced the monk named in a Xinhua report and claimed he was too apolitical to have done such a thing.

The extraordinary request from the Chinese authorities suggests a marked stepped-up of campaign by Beijing against self-immolation protests, with at least 110 Tibetans having set themselves ablaze to protest China’s policies.

The Chinese police last month sent a “co-investigation request to the police authorities” in India, according to Xinhua news agency. The case was of self-immolations by two young monks in the Aba region of Sichuan, a predominantly Tibetan prefecture, where a series of immolations began in 2009.

The Chinese authorities have accused the uncle of one of the monks, who resides in India, of “inculcating the idea of ‘Tibet independence’” and describing self-immolation “as a beautiful thing,” Xinhua said, naming the man as Tenpa Gyatso (32).

Senior ranking Tibetans attached to the Dalai Lama’s office confirmed the monk’s name but said, contrary to the Xinhua report, he was not with the media department of the Kirti Monastery near Dharamsala and too apolitical to have suggested such a step to his nephews. Anyway, he has not spoken to the nephews, they added.

The authorities say his 15-year-old nephew, Rinchen Tseli, set himself on fire and died on February 19 in Jamcha village in Aba. The same day, Sonam Dhargyal (16) also set himself on fire in Aba. Chinese officials, Xinhua said, have alleged that Mr. Gyatso encouraged the two boys to protest. “The Indian side will carve your name on the Monument to Self-immolators…. and pray for you,” officials alleged Mr. Gyatso told them.

Mr. Gyatso, however, told Lobsang Reshi, one of the information communicators heading the media department at the Kirti Monasterythat he had never spoken to his nephews but had once or twice telephoned his brother, the father of Rinchen, who lives in eastern Tibet’s Nagaba region, the hub of protests and self-immolation. This is also the location of the original Kirti Monastery.

Tenzing Letshay, media coordinator of the Dalai Lama’s office in Delhi, told The Hindu that the monk was “shocked’’ when confronted with the Xinhua report. “The accusations generally are a lie. If he had done something like that, that would have been a wrong thing to do. But the fact is he didn’t do it. He had spoken to his brother in the past and discussed the wellbeing of his family members in Tibet,’’ he said.

Other Tibetan sources, preferring to remain anonymous, said the Chinese retaliation could be because of the leading role by the Dharamsala version of the Kirti Monastery in highlighting the immolations, as the region has been the hub of protests.

Asked for his take on this story, Director General of Indian Council of World Affairs Rajiv Bhatia said, “We follow closely developments relating to China’s internal politics, economy and external relations, but we have no immediate comment on this episode. In case a Chinese request is received by our authorities concerned, I am sure it will be processed suitably.”

The Chinese authorities have accused exiled monks in Dharamsala of organising many of the protests. They said videos and photographs had been sent to India for dissemination.

Exiled groups, however, say resentment, because of restrictive Chinese policies, was the root cause of self-immolations. Many of the protesters called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

The Chinese government has accused the exiled leader of encouraging such incidents by honouring protesters. The Dalai Lama has strongly denied the allegation and urged Beijing to examine its policies.