By Lobsang Wangyal
MCLEOD GANJ, India, 25 September 2015
Jonang members protesting for the recognition of their tradition as a separate sect called off their hunger strike after receiving assurances from the exile administration that some of their demands would be fulfilled.
Sikyong (Prime Minister) of the Central Tibetan Administration, Lobsang Sangay, and Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, Penpa Tsering, offered water to the nine hunger strikers, after which the protest was ended.
Tsewang Gyaltso, the leader of the association leading the agitation, addressed the press after the visit by the Sikyong and the Speaker, saying that the protest was temporarily halted because of the request from their spiritual leader, Tulku Jigme Dorje, from Dzamgthang in Tibet, and also at the request of the secretaries of the Office of the Dalai Lama.
Gyaltso added that they were assured by Sikyong that four of their seven demands will be accepted: The Jonang sect will be accorded the same privileges as the other sects in political and religious events, have their history taught in the schools, and receive equal seats in the Tibetan Buddhist scholars committee.
He said they will continue with their demands until they are accepted by the exile Parliament and the Administration. Their core demand is getting recognition from the Tibetan Parliament for Jonang as a separate sect, like the other four sects of Tibetan Buddhism — Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug.
The Parliament rejected this demand in the previous ninth session and continued with their stand in the just-concluded tenth session.
Speaker Penpa Tsering in his concluding remarks said that the members of the Parliament made no decision on the Jonang group’s demands, which resulted in the request being dropped.
“They (the followers of Jonang) should present their case decently. The harsh wording in their petitions doesn’t help to draw support from the members of Parliament.”
He further said that the 16th Parliament will be formed next year, and they should approach the new house for approval.
About 150 members of the followers of Jonang had started a sit-in protest as the 10th session of the Parliament began on 15 September. On the second day, after their plea for recognition was not accepted, the nine members started the hunger strike.
There appear to be some members of Jonang trying to politicize the entire issue for their personal gain and I am sure a genuine practitioner of Dharma doesn’t need any political platform in life. It is a disgrace to their own sect for causing immense inconvenience and shame to our people in the name of religion.
The lamas should return to their temple and work for peace and happiness of all sentient beings; not stage hunger strike in front of exile Parliament. I am saddened by their sectarian feelings at a time when unity of the Tibetan people is paramount importance to our cause. Please stop this kind of useless exercise as there is complete religious freedom in our society. Stop such kind of protest in future.