KATHMANDU, Nepal, 1 November 2016
They say “All that glitters is not gold,” but for Lobsang Wangyal all that glitters is gold — glittering attire, glittering countenance, and glittering rollicks, flamboyant and glamorous. He is a bird of many feathers. For the orthodox Tibetans he stands out as a sore thumb. For the intellectuals he is apparently ridiculous and possibly a source of mirth. For the bravehearts he is an iconic figure. But if you wish to do something for Tibet and the Tibetan cause, Lobsang is the gold mine, or at least that has been my experience.
Much perturbed over the many and frequent self-immolations by Tibetans, I was desperately seeking a public forum to express my anguish, and to reach out to these forsaken and distressed people to dissuade them from this gruesome act. But I was stumped in my effort. No established news media shared my concern, and my article did not get coverage. Then one day I happened to come across Tibet Sun, a news website which loudly proclaimed “everything Tibet”. Sure enough, I found my article promptly published, and this was the beginning of my acquaintance with Lobsang Wangyal who happens to be the producer of this website.
The value of the news media to shape world opinion and to goad people in power into action is well known, especially to the Chinese government and with reference to Tibet. Through a series of intricate and complex means they have been able to impose a virtual clampdown on news emanating from Tibet to enable them unobstructed continuance of the stranglehold and savage rule over this nation.
Ms Tenzin Dhardon Sharling, Information Secretary of Government of Tibet, in a recent interview taken by Lobsang Wangyal, expressed her commitment to “supersede the propaganda war that China is waging against us”. While we wish her all success in her venture, we must realize that even the Government of Tibet is constrained by nuances of officialdom from taking any bold actions.
It is here that the role of independent media like Lobsang Wangyal’s Tibet Sun, truly frank and fearless in dissemination of news and views on Tibet, becomes invaluable to tell the truth about Tibet and vehemently condemn the Chinese government before the world and provide some respite and hope to the Tibetans inside Tibet. It is maybe for this reason that Lobsang Wangyal stations himself in McLeod Ganj, India, in close proximity to the Tibetan government and in the midst of the Tibetan people, and does not seek greener pastures elsewhere although he easily could.
Lobsang hits the news every year for the Miss Tibet Beauty Pageant, which he organizes under the banner of Lobsang Wangyal Productions. He has to make do with a limited number of aspirantsm as Tibetans in general disapprove of such shows. In the year 2013 only one contestant turned up, but he with his never-say-die attitude nevertheless went ahead and crowned her Miss Tibet. At other times, his catwalks have degenerated into cat fights and it was hilarious to see him bumble his way through, admitting sheepishly that he had appeared to commit fraud in the selection process.
However beauty is only skin deep, and Lobsang’s Beauty Pageant does carry meaning deeper than the skin. Pageants like Miss America, Miss India, Miss Spain, etc., are modern appurtenances that give a country the identity of a nation, and the Miss Tibet Pageant has to be viewed from this perspective more than the beauty of the contestants. It’s Lobsang’s way of clutching at the last straw to give his country, Tibet, a national identity, and his efforts like this Beauty Pageant, Tibetan Music Awards, Free Spirit Film Festival, etc., in this direction, deserve to be lauded and supported overwhelmingly by all patriotic Tibetans.
Lobsang was in the news recently as a completely different avatar: A legal activist fighting court case with the Government of India for issuance of Indian Passport to qualified Tibetans. He has won the case — which was a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for all Tibetans, not just for himself — and his success has been hailed by many in the Tibetan community. And yet in some quarters there is murmuring of “treachery” for “giving up Tibetan citizenship.”
Overall, it can be said that he has fought and proved that Tibetans cannot be treated as second-class citizens and did manage to redeem their sense of pride.
I write this article with much trepidation as I am dealing with a controversial subject and maybe there are many, including Tibetans themselves, ready to give the broadside to me and my article. I don’t own as large and strong a heart as Lobsang to take those things in my stride — but what the heck, as long as it makes news about Tibet and keeps this nation from fading from public memory, you have to be Lobsang Wangyal, and like him pompously say, “Come one, come all, everything is fair in the game of love and war.”
So Lobsang, well done, and may your tribe increase.
About the author
Laden Tshering Samdup is a retired businessman, living in Kathmandu. He has MA (Hons) economics from Birla Institute of Technology and Science from Pilani, Rajasthan, India. He can be reached c/o Boudha Peace School, Phulbari, Kathmandu, Nepal.
More articles by Laden Tshering Samdup on Tibet Sun.