Are Lukar Jam’s critics trying to damage his reputation?

I have read Senge Rabten’s letter to the editor titled “Lukar Jam does it again” from beginning to end, and read it twice again, and once again today this morning. What happens when you read a piece fuelled largely by the coal of loyalty to a personality rather than by careful scrutiny of facts? You want to write a response in the interest of the Tibetan public. And here it goes. This piece will tackle it paragraph by paragraph, and provide an alternative view, so that readers have the right materials to make their own judgements.

Paragraph 1: Yes, it is no secret that Lukar Jam declared, without mincing words, that he was against anyone who does not support independence. He said it, and what’s the big deal about that? Mr Rabten has quietly ignored one word that Lukar Jam mentioned. He did not specify only the Dalai Lama, he also mentioned his father. His actual words are “whether it is the Dalai Lama or my father.” Samdhong Rinpoche once said those who make uncalled-for noises carrying Rangzen on their lips were worse than Chinese communists and Shugden followers. Unfortunately, there’s no hue and cry against Rinpoche’s proclamation, which if pronounced in a free society like America, would have garnered torrents of rebuttals. If analysed impartially, there is nothing to suggest that Lukar Jam’s ‘traitor’ comment is in principle any different from Samdhong Rinpoche’s ‘Chinese communist/Shugden’ comment. You have stated Mr Jam’s comment hurt the sentiment of many Tibetans. But by the same token, don’t you believe Samdhong Rinpoche’s comment has similarly hurt many freedom-loving Tibetans and Tibet supporters alike?

Allow me to digress for a minute on the Umey-Rangen dichotomy? Middle-path was adopted in the Tibetan exile world by a majority of 60% several decades ago. But this referendum has staggering limitations, not in the least because the vote count was less than, by a generous estimate, 100,000 Tibetan exiles. Mr Rabten should contrast this figure to 7,000,000-plus Tibetans inside Tibet, a majority of whom support Independence. No one who self-immolated has called for ‘Genuine Autonomy or Umey’ but changed to ‘Tibetan independence’ while being dragged by flames into the realm of the dead.

Paragraph 2: Yes, Lukar Jam said that late Prof Eliot Sperling should live for 113 years. So what’s the big deal about that? It is reasonable that Lukar Jam would wish his friend to live long enough. There is no relationship of ‘mutual exclusivity’. Person A living for 113 years doesn’t preclude person B from living for 113 years. This relationship applies to the appellation of 17h Karmapa. Increasingly, Tsurphu Labrang is adopting ‘His Holiness the 17th Karmpapa’ title. Does that mean Dalai Lama is not the one to deserve HH the Dalai Lama? This sort of argument leads to absurdity, if stretched to its logical conclusion. So isn’t it fair to say that those who take issue with the ‘113 years’ comment are endeavouring to make mountain out of molehill?

Further, you have insinuated that Lukar Jam wanted Dalai Lama ‘dead’ — Are you serious? You couldn’t be serious. By writing such a bold sweeping statement without foundation, the writer is stoking anger in the public to avenge Lukar Jam, and lo and behold, we’ve all seen the result. Lukar Jam received threats to his life and his car (reportedly donated to his European supporters for his security) was vandalized in March 2017. Is this how we want to treat our freedom fighters who already suffered under the Communist Chinese?

On the question of Shugden, the only voice of reason comes from Lukar Jam, who expressed that the Shugden issue has been elevated to a national level when it is in essence a minor issue, and clearly not worthy of discussion in the highest echelons of Tibetan government. We had no Shugden issue until 1996 when a prominent guru was murdered by Chinese spies who fled to Tibet. Then started the witchhunt against Shugden. Don’t you see that Chinese deliberately wanted to stoke tension by bringing the Shugden issue to the forefront of Tibetan politics? In centuries past, it was nothing more than a peripheral issue and the Tibetan diaspora enjoyed relative stability on the religious front. The way to deal with the Shugden issue is to guarantee freedom of religion to its practitioners and separate it from politics altogether.

Paragraph 3: “Why is Lukar Jam hell-bent on attacking His Holiness the Dalai Lama?” opines Mr Rabten. But what he fails to clarify is the definition of the word ‘attack’. What is the difference between ‘attacking’ the Dalai Lama and ‘criticising’ the Dalai Lama? If he means criticism, then the answer to his anguished puzzlement is easy. He is criticising Dalai Lama because he found reasons to criticise. Show me a single democratic nation where criticism of the leaders is not allowed? I will show you a basketful of states banning criticism of its leaders: North Korea, Sudan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Syria. You get the idea. Just as apostles of the Middle-path policy have the right to speak, and say Rangzen followers are ‘more dangerous than Chinese Communists’, Independence champions have the equal right to speak, and say Middle-path followers are ‘traitors’. Failing to acknowledge this irony and gap in logic is but an indicator of entrenched narcissism.

On the question of spreading dissension and division, does Mr Rabten long for a group of people who don’t have any personal opinions themselves, but who follow parrot-fashion lists of what to believe and what to say bellowed out from a loudspeaker? Democracy is uncomfortable, because it brings up lots of questions that make us think hard. But lovers of democracy accept it. Tibetans should accept it too.

When Samdhong Rinpoche says “Rangzen people outdo Chinese communists in badness” and tarnish their reputation, it is not spreading dissension and division, but is rather a decree of unfathomable truth. One is compelled to conclude Mr Rabten’s democracy — or rather this democracy with ‘Tibetan characteristics’ — is a mind-boggling, liver-shimmering Utopia of the sort Orwell have envisaged. It is a democracy where “all animals are equal, but some are still more EQUAL than others.”

Para 4: Mr Rabten likens Lukar Jam’s candidacy on the Tibetan Independence platform to an “evil scheme designed to disable CTA’s way of governing and cause all-round frustration in the community.” I seriously challenge Mr Rabten to provide evidence for his declarations. Mr Rabten makes us believe Lukar Jam is the reincarnation of the devil, hell-bent on spreading evil in society. Is this really the case, seriously? Lukar Jam’s support comes from mainland Tibet (Dharamshala-centric refugee population) where he is hailed as a martyr.

Para 5: Yes, the Dalai lama is the most famous Tibetan, and he has rightly garnered many honorary citizenships and praises for his message of non-violence and for his charisma. And of course, people will wish him longevity. But that has nothing to do with Lukar Jam. Lukar Jam’s criticism is not that the Dalai Lama isn’t being a good human being or guru; rather, his criticism is on the political front in relation to ceding sovereignty to China. Surely a leader saying we are not seeking our country back but joining the enemy would hurt someone like Lukar Jam, whose life was dedicated for the very same purpose.

Para 6: The Dalai Lama’s magnanimity and loveable qualities are indeed incontestable. No one is saying that he isn’t a man of peace. Lukar Jam’s point is in the brutal, dog-eat-dog dynamics of the nation-state politics. It is not a man of peace who will defeat the enemy, but a warrior of worldly strategies and ambition that will gain us our freedom.

Para 7: All peace-loving people around the globe celebrate the Dalai Lama’s spiritual wisdom. And let me join the writer in wishing His Holiness long life.

In conclusion, one is driven to feel after reading Mr Rabten’s opinion that while he may have enviable questions such as loyalty in abundance, it is highly recommended that he take up a crash course on Democracy 101. By exerting such pressure on Lukar Jam to self-censor his opinions by condemnation in Parliament and various private spheres, does Lukar Jam really feel his free speech is respected? This is a question that must stir the conscience of all Tibetans.

Students for Lukar Jam
by email

23 April 2017

Copyright © 2017 Students for Lukar Jam

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily that of Tibet Sun