Leh, Kargil hold massive protests against bid to ‘defame’ Dalai Lama, observe shutdown

Hundreds of locals assembled at Polo Ground, Leh, and raised the slogans “Long Live Dalai Lama”

April 17, 2023 06:43 pm | Updated 09:23 pm IST - Srinagar

Members of the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association take part in a prayer ceremony for the well-being of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama at the Main Tibetan Temple in McLeod Ganj on April 17, 2023.

Members of the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association take part in a prayer ceremony for the well-being of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama at the Main Tibetan Temple in McLeod Ganj on April 17, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP

Buddhists as well as Muslims participated in a shutdown in Ladakh on April 17 to protest against the “attempt to defame Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama” after the recent controversy stoked by a video.

Hundreds of locals assembled at Polo Ground, Leh, and raised the slogans “Long Live Dalai Lama” and “We stand for Dalai Lama”. Markets in Leh and Kargil districts remained shut. The demonstrators were demanding an official inquiry to identify people who allegedly spread unverified videos about the Dalai Lama and hurt the sentiments of Buddhists across the world.  

“A protest was observed in all parts of Ladakh. All social and religious groups supported the protest. The protest is against the disinformation campaign launched against His Holiness Dalai Lama. We condemn the act of circulating the unverified video. It has hurt our sentiments and has the potential to create a law and order problem if action is not taken against those who indulged in the act,” Thupstan Chhewang, former Member of Parliament and president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), said.

Also Read | The Dalai Lama | Straddling the spiritual and the political

Monday’s shutdown call was issued by the LBA and the Ladakh Gompa Association. The call was supported by Muslim organisations too.

“The power of media and social media should be used responsibly. Sharing any unverified piece of fake news has the potential to create chaos and controversy, and the same has happened unfortunately in the case of the Dalai Lama,” Ghulam Mehdi, an executive councillor, said.

Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, who also attended the protest rally in Leh, said highly objectionable words were used against the Dalai Lama. “We condemn it. The Dalai Lama is not an individual but 21st century’s living Buddha. The act has hurt sentiments of people,” MP Namgyal said. 

Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh Chairman Tashi Gyalson said there seemed to be a well-planned conspiracy behind the campaign against the guru of Buddhists. “An inquiry should be launched to unearth the conspiracy and identify those responsible for the unverified videos aimed at defaming the Dalai Lama. Since the act falls in the category of blasphemy, action as per the law should follow,” Mr. Gyalson said.

A video of the Dalai Lama and a child created a controversy recently. It was followed by an official apology from the office of the Dalai Lama.

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