Commemorating Tibetan Uprising Day in the face of our political differences

Ugyen Gyalpo

Ugyen Gyalpo

By Ugyen Gyalpo

NEW YORK, US, 7 March 2017

This tenth of March 2017 will mark the 58th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising that took place in 1959 in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. This uprising was a spontaneous culmination of people’s outrage towards imminent threat to the life of His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet. This uprising was also a culmination of the Tibetan people’s fight to restore their country’s independence, and to repeal the dubious Seventeen-Point Agreement which the inept Tibetan government had been coerced to sign.

The uprising was against the backdrop of countries around the globe busy claiming independence, beginning with “India’s tryst with destiny” at the stroke of midnight in 1947. This infamous day ironically also marked the total and official annexation of Tibet into the brutal hegemonic and imperialistic rule of China, at the same time that other countries around the world were breaking the shackles of colonialism and claiming independence.

A precarious state of affairs slowly started in the early 1950s and proved cancerous. The Chinese came as a friend at first, with a promise to reform Tibet’s “feudal society” and usher in “modernity”, and with this they strategically laid out their imperialistic designs.

In 1959, the weight of a falling nation came crashing down upon the young 24-year-old shoulders of our present Dalai Lama. And the only source he had to withstand such a tragic fate of history from these tyrannous colonists, was not any military might, but his innate and primordial buddhist nature of love, compassion, and altruism.

On this fateful day the patriotic mood of the nation, the clouds of suspicion, and the air of rage and anger all hungered above Lhasa. Many Tibetans outside of Lhasa, from as far as Kham, the farthest province that bordered China, had walked for many, preparing for such an overt predictable attempt by the Chinese to imprison or assassinate our Dalai Lama.

Every year, we relive the haunting memory of this infamous day and the days that ensued, through the faces of our elders who were there, and the stories of their tragic past. We commemorate the pain, the holocaustic loss, through untold stories of death, rape, struggle sessions, witch hunting, vilification, arson, and thousands who languished in gulags, as a result of that single event.

The “Middle-way approach” of appeasement

Despite the significance of this day, many questions about its significance, and even the legitimacy to protest what might ensue, can be juxtaposed against the CTA policy of the “Middle-way approach” of appeasement.

His Holiness has given up his call for Tibet’s independence. And then gave up his political leadership of Tibet. Tibetan society as a whole has never been so divided. Our once-common objective of fighting for freedom for Tibet, is now dwarfed by a non-meaningful approach. We suffer under infighting, often laden with condemnation of bolder approaches to fight for Tibet’s just cause.

We have seen China’s systematic tactics to assimilate Tibetans into the Chinese world, with over half a century of calculated attempts to destroy Tibetan civilisation and way of life behind the facade of the Red iron curtain. But the seismic eruption of self-immolations that have rocked Tibet for many years now, testify time and again how China has failed to win over the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people.

While many dream of a Free Tibet, our political divisiveness prevents anything getting done, putting us a far cry from that dream. I think a political compromise such as conceding through autonomy is not an answer. By this we have already caved in, and you have become more or less a Chinese. Not surprisingly, even a country like Switzerland is forcing Tibetans from their previous status of “stateless” to that of “Chinese national”!

The craving for freedom

The unflinching flames of Independence (Rangzen), and our true desire and hunger for freedom, should be our sustenance to incubate such thoughts into action. History will always be our backbone of truth, even if that truth takes another 50 years to realize.

With the rapid economic changes happening in China, a liberal thinking and a hunger for democracy have taken root. Very soon, who knows, given the iron-clad rule and heavy-handed policies choking the much-aspired and craved freedom of expression and thoughts even within China, we might against all odds see a change of wind blow right before our eyes.

This craving for freedom within China will one day not only foster Tibet’s hope for freedom, but will bring the history shaping on its own terms, with changing world socio-politico and economic dynamics and infectious progressive and liberal thoughts.

A paradigm shift will happen, when all nations be then ripe to rewrite and correct history on their own accord, on a clean slate with regards to Tibet’s legitimate place in world history. It will be ours to rejoice in genuine freedom at last — given our fire of freedom is still alight and burning like it is today!

About the author

Ugyen Gyalpo lives in Woodside, New York, and works as an insurance agent for United Health Group, New York.

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