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Tibetan youth plan march for freedom

A file photo of Tibetan exiles shouting anti-China slogans during a protest outside the Chinese embassy in New Delhi.

A file photo of Tibetan exiles shouting anti-China slogans during a protest outside the Chinese embassy in New Delhi.

Days after the Dalai Lama said that “Tibetans want to stay with China”, the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the largest group of youth activists among the refugee population, has announced it will take out a nationwide campaign in India calling for independence for Tibet, highlighting the growing divide within the community in India.

The march, called the “Bharat Jagran Yatra”, will also coincide with the arrival of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who is attending the Russia-India-China (RIC) meeting in Delhi. The External Affairs Ministry declined to comment if the march would affect the talks in any way, but a senior government official who handles Tibetan refugee matters said the government “isn’t too worried”.

While the TYC has carried out protests in the past, this is the first time it is attempting a march of this scale. “There is a sense of frustration among our people who have lived for 50 years in exile. We have to educate people about the need for an independent Tibet and why it is important for India, given Chinese intrusions at the border, as well,” TYC president Tenzin Jigme told The Hindu , outlining plans for the march beginning December 10 from Dharamshala, Chennai and Salaugara in West Bengal, to travel to 150 towns and cities.

Among the TYC’s demands are that India must “review its policy” and support Tibetan independence. “We must seize the moment, as after Doklam, people of India realise what is going on. Already several [Indian] leaders have spoken of reviewing India’s policies [on Tibet],” Mr. Jigme said.

India recognises the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of China, and has reiterated that there has been no change in the official “One-China” policy. However, since 2014, the NDA government has toughened its stand on supporting the Tibetan community, beginning with an invitation to the ‘Sikyong’ or leader Lobsang Sangay to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

Dalai Lama’s visit

Analysts say the government has also increased security for the Dalai Lama, and will be facilitating another visit by him to Arunachal Pradesh shortly, which China has always objected to.

However, the larger concern at present is over the growing divide between the Dalai Lama’s leadership, which advocates the Umaylam or middle-way approach that calls for more autonomy for Tibet within China, against the Rangzen or independence demand pushed by the TYC and their followers in the Tibetan diaspora. At a speech in Kolkata last month, the Dalai Lama said Tibetans “will have to look into the future” and seek development, not independence, following which his official envoy, Samdhong Rinpoche, reportedly visited China.

“This Umaylam-Rangzen schism has been growing since elections were held last year,” says Jayadev Ranade, former Cabinet Secretariat official and author of a new book, Cadres in Tibet .

Mr. Ranade, who has closely watched the Tibetan community in India, estimated to be between 1.5 lakh and 4.5 lakh, adds, “For us in India, the concern is about any law and order issue that would come out of it.”

( With Vijaita Singh)


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Printable version | May 21, 2022 6:12:45 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/tibetan-youth-plan-march-for-freedom/article21340159.ece