How to Tame Tibet

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), based in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, recently came down heavily on China for their dubious policy of introducing a new Ethnic Unity Bill which the Tibetans in exile in India and elsewhere dub as a calculated measure to cleanse Tibetans ethnically. It is a legal exercise with extra-legal manoeuvring. It was framed following a series of arbitrary detention and unrest in parts of Tibet including the recent arrest of 30 Tibetans in Tibet's Kham province. When the Chinese army—PLA—entered Tibet in the 1950s, the people of Kham revolted and tried to resist the Chinese invasion and advance without success. They even resorted to guerilla movement to regain their lost independence but finally failed to thwart the massive Chinese army crackdown. In truth the Kham resistance was initially backed by CIA but the American Administration somehow got disinterested in it and abandoned the KHAMS in the middle. In the end the Khams too withdrew from their guerilla tactical resistance.

CTA's Information Secretary T G Arya said, "Tibet Autonomous Region's People's Congress , in the second week of January, passed the first of its kind legislation on strengthening ethnic unity" in the region, effective May 1. The "Ethnic Regulation" has some basic characteristics similar to what the Chinese authorities introduced in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) four years ago. The Chinese have long been, more than six decades to be precise, trying to pacify the Tibetans, with a view to consolidating their military hold over Tibetan affairs and expanding Han domination while systematically marginalising Tibetan culture and heritage and their unique Budhism. But Tibetans are Tibetans. They won't be Chinese in the foreseeable future. They are proud of their tradition, language and institutions, though medieval in nature, including the Dalai Lama.

Tibetan refugees in India spreading in different parts, living a miserable life of statelessness for so long and yet they refuse to kowtow to the Beijing Mandarins. They hope to get back to their original Tibet free from overlordism of the Chinese. In reality the Chinese plan is to achieve complete sinicisation of the Tibetan plateau as quickly as possible. The ethnic law is violative of international law and the Chinese Constitution as well. Who bothers about Tibetan sentiments and their desire to get back what they have lost—at least a semi-independent status, an arrangement that was more powerful and meaningful than what the Kashmiris enjoyed through Article 370. It remains to be seen whether all other autonomous regions are being forced to pass similar ethnic laws only to make ethnic identities more and more obscure, not in the distant future.

Incidentally, no country, not to speak of any major power, supported the Tibetan Cause—their Right to Self-Determination.The Chinese 'communists' even under Mao refused to grant right to self determination to the Tibetans, albeit Communists cannot deny this right to persecuted minorities, more precisely ethnic and religious minorities.

Demographically Tibetans are becoming a minority community people in their own country as it has happened in India's Tripura where local original indigenous people today are a minority community and Bangali settlers from neighbouring Bangladesh have outnumbered them many times only to make that hapless state an ethnic cauldron and continuing conflict. Tragically the tribals of Tripura are now demanding a separate tribal state within Tripura itself.

Ethnic minorities are badly treated almost everywhere. In neighbouring Bangladesh once the late Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, famously or infamously, asked the Chakma ethnic people to become good Bengalis, ignoring their ethnic peculiarities. The plight of Chakmas in Bangladesh defies description and in India they are refugees forever with no permanent place to go. They are unwanted guests in Arunachal and elsewhere in North East.

The Chinese have virtually made obscure the age-old Institution Dalai Lama. But six decades of suppression of Tibetan aspirations seems to be backfiring despite propaganda blitz that the Tibetans are enjoying 'socialism' with Chinese characteristics. If the Chinese have failed to achieve their objective in six decades, they are unlikely to have it in another six decades because the Tibetans are fiercely independent-minded, they want to get rid of Chinese domination once and for all.

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Vol. 52, No. 31, Feb 2 - 8, 2020