Democracy for All

Laden Tshering Samdup

Laden Tshering Samdup

By Laden Tshering Samdup

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 14 August 2017

Democracy is not a subject alien to Tibetans, and they have been practicing democracy for centuries. I have seen many quotes by great statesman on democracy, but I have yet to find a better one than the Tibetan verse of ‘The Four Immeasurables’ (tse me shi) to succinctly and comprehensively describe the aspirations of a democracy.

The Four Immeasurables

May all sentient beings have happiness
and the causes of happiness;
May all sentient beings be free from suffering
and the causes of suffering;
May all sentient beings never be separated from
the happiness that knows no suffering;
May all sentient beings live in equanimity,
free from attachment and aversion.
sem chen tam chay de wa dang
de way gyu dang den par gyur chig
sem chen tam chay dug ngel dang
dug ngel kyi gyu dang del war gyur chig
sem chen tam chay dug ngel me pay de wa dang
mi drel war gyur chig
sem chen tam chay nye ring chag dang
nyi dang drel way dang nyom la nay par gyur chig

I find this verse resonates well with the aspirations of a democracy, because whatever rights a democracy guarantees its citizens — be it the right to speech, right to education, right to profession, etc. — they ultimately converge to give happiness to its citizens, remove their suffering, and last but not least, these rights are to be enjoyed by all irrespective of their colour, caste, creed, etc.

So Tibetans don’t need a Constitution to reinforce their allegiance to democratic values. This simple but all-encompassing verse is sufficient, and they use it every time they say their prayer.

The right to exercise one’s franchise while electing one’s leader is the sine qua non of democracy. This system of representation is supposed to safeguard the interest of its citizens, but we are all aware of the pitfalls of such a system.

The Tibetan system of reincarnate Lamas appears to have done a much better job. The present Dalai Lama, His Holiness, was chosen from a simple farmer family and not as scion of some powerful political family, indicative of the equal opportunity nature of the system. From the age of two he was trained and educated to be a benevolent leader. His wisdom, his leadership, his statesmanship, and worldwide accolades have garnered him followers not only in the Tibetan community but outside as well. He stands out as a shining example of the success of the system of reincarnate lamas.

The Tibetan Government in Exile and Tibetan Diaspora across the world will be celebrating 57th Tibetan Democracy Day, come 2 September 2017. As usual, there will be gathering of dignitaries, low tone and tenor speeches, small tete-a-tete, and everybody will disperse to meet again in 2018 to celebrate the 58th Democracy Day.

Fifty-seven years is a pretty long and tiring wait by any standard. However Tibetans have not lost hope and still look to the Tibetan Government in Exile to give them freedom and democracy. They are silently tolerating the oppression and brutalities of the Chinese occupation forces. These are the silent majority, the 98% of Tibetans living now inside Tibet, whose welfare must be kept uppermost in the minds of TGiE. It is understandable that their guest status hinders TGiE from taking any strong actions that could destabilize the relation between their host country India and China, but with the winds of change blowing and India itself in serious predicament, it’s now time to shed the complacency and to up the ante.

China appears to be intoxicated by economic success, with unfettered and indiscriminate use of oppressive measures. They are now raring to use their power to subdue the rest of the world. They have adopted a war-like posture against Western powers lead by USA over the South China Sea, and war may be imminent with India on various border issues.

China has a penchant for distorting historical facts to its advantage. Its historical basis for laying claim on the South China Sea was unceremoniously dumped by The Hague Tribunal. There is not an iota of doubt that if their historical basis for invading and conquering the independent nation of Tibet is similarly scrutinized, it would meet the same fate. Doklam is the latest in the series of Chinese white lies and they have the impetuosity to threaten India, again quoting a historical basis of 1962 war.

Whether China can walk the talk on Doklam issue is a different issue, but what can certainly occur is another historical basis that has the potential to hit the Chinese a sledge hammer blow. This history is reiterated in the annals of the great Second World War. During the Second World War Nazi Germany, a totalitarian regime like the CCP, had embarked on a harebrained scheme of world domination and had been able to conquer almost all of Europe and bring its people under its tyrannical rule. Fortunately for the conquered nations, Germany’s might was challenged by the Allied powers of Great Britain, America, etc., and war was ongoing. Partisans or freedom fighters emerged from within the vanquished nations and fought the War of Resistance. They collected vital military intelligence and passed it on to allied powers. They sabotaged German military troop movements, supplies and communications.

Their tales of valor and sacrifices have become national folklores. Ultimately they gained freedom and mighty Germany was reduced to rubbles. It sounds a bit like a fairy tale, but it is possible to have a repeat of that scenario albeit at a different place and by a different set of people.

Here it is worth recounting the history of Operation Anthropoid, undertaken by Czech freedom fighters and considered the most important event in the history of World War II. France and Britain had capitulated to Hitler’s demands, and Czechoslovakia had ceased to exist as a nation. However these brave freedom fighters became martyrs to successfully conclude the operation on 27 May 1942 in Prague. SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Head of the Nazi’s dreaded secret Police Gestapo, was assassinated. Hitler’s reprisal was severe and 5,000 Czech civilians were said to have been executed. However, the Allied Forces restored the nationhood of Czechoslovakia and the Czech government-in-exile gained legitimacy.

Let’s cross our fingers and hope for a speedy end to days of celebrating the Democracy Day with a heavy heart and grimace born out of extreme frustration and sense of helplessness. At the same time we must realize that we are not all Lamas, and a free and democratic Tibet is not going to be offered to us on a platter by someone else as ‘Cho’. So let’s pull up our pants, look back over our shoulders at our unfortunate brethren we left behind and be the pathfinders of their salvation. Lead kindly light.

Tashi De Lek to ALL.

About the author

Laden Tshering Samdup is a retired businessman living in Kathmandu. He has MA (Hons) in economics from Birla Institute of Technology and Science from Pilani, Rajasthan, India. He can be reached c/o Boudha Peace School, Phulbari, Kathmandu, Nepal.

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