By Lobsang Wangyal
MCLEOD GANJ, India, 18 September 2015
Nine followers of the Jonang tradition have started a hunger strike in protest against the rejection by the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile to recognise Jonang as a separate sect.
More than 100 people have gathered outside the Parliament protesting rejection of their demand, along with the nine hunger strikers.
Three armed police have been deployed by the Indian authorities to avoid any untoward incident in the area.
“The nine members will continue with their hunger strike until the Tibetan Parliament fulfil our demands,” said the President of the Jonang Well-Being Association of India, Tsewang Gyaltso.
The group is asking for the recognition of Jonang as a separate sect, as are the Nyingma, Kyagu, Sakya and Gelug sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
Their other demands include equal seats like the other sects in various religious and political meetings, that school children be taught about the background of Jonang as is done with the other sects, and an amendment to the Charter of the Tibetans-in-exile to provide two seats for Jonang similar to the other sects.
The members of the exile Parliament met for a discussion session to address the Jonang issue on the third day of the Parliament session.
The majority of the members rejected the demands. The decision of the rejection was relayed to the members of the group by the Speaker Penpa Tsering, who was accompanied by the Deputy Speaker Sonam Tenphel and Sikyong (Prime Minister) Lobsang Sangay.
Following the rejection by the Parliament, nine members started the hunger strike.
On Thursday, the third day of the session, one of the members of Parliament, Gashi Tse Ringpo, came to attend the session with a personal bodyguard. He has not been attending the session for the first two days. Tse Ringpo refused to take the literature the group was giving to the members of the Parliament.
An argument ensued between the protesters and Tse Ringpo’s bodyguard. The bodyguard also threatened Tsewang Gyaltso and another Jonang member.
If am for not having Chitues (members of Parliament) from religious groups. I don’t understand their need. What purpose does that serve?
Since there are Cholug chitues (members of Parliament from religious sects) now, why not the same opportunities for Jonang, Muslim and maybe others? In democracy everybody has the same rights.
I feel that the call by Jonangpas to have recognition as a sect, and have equal rights as other sects is a just call. The Parliament should respect that, and must approve their demands.
It is extremely sad seeing sectarian issues emerging in Tibetan politics today. I think this is not the time to play politics with religion when Tibet and Tibetans are suffering under China’s repressive policy.
I can’t understand who is inspiring those monks to undertake hunger strike in front of exiled Parliament, and many people consider this an useless exercise to create unnecessary problems in our community. They should have devoted their intelligence and energy to spread peace and harmony which is the true teaching of Buddha Sakyamuni.
Tsewang Gyaltso should refrain from doing things that will disrupt peace. What do they hope to achieve by having their representation in exiled Parliament?
The followers of Jonang tradition have always enjoyed complete religious freedom in society and why this fuss now. Please don’t do this now.