McLEOD GANJ, India, 3 December 2019
The words unity, responsibility, dedication are mantras recited by those holding high positions, irrespective of whether they practice these values themselves in Tibetan society. Then there are others, who don’t say these words, but by their own initiative try to do whatever they can for society. One way they do for society is with all kinds of events — social, religious, environmental, commercial — which are produced throughout the year in McLeod Ganj, the heart of the exile Tibetan movement.
Perhaps due to the pleasant autumn weather, October is a particularly busy month, to the point that events even overlap. (It seems that event organisers don’t always check to see if other events have already announced their timing.)
When trying to organise events, reality hits: Useless rules, arbitrary decisions, discrimination, and misuse of power. Dealing with these injustices, one feels like our oppressor is not somewhere else but is among ourselves. It feels like: Forget China, first we need to sort ourselves out. The purpose of this piece is to tell you about an example of this.
Various events are planned by organisations as well as individuals, but venues are not easy to find in McLeod Ganj. For people to be able to easily attend, many of these events need to be held right in McLeod Ganj, rather than in the outskirts such as at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.
One venue that is centrally located, and of appropriate size for many of the events, is the TCV Day School in the middle of McLeod Ganj. It has a hall as well as a courtyard. The hall has a stage with enough room for the size of events that most NGOs or individuals organise. It doesn’t have sound, lighting, or screening facilities though. The courtyard is similarly good for many events. This hall was built by the Tibetan Parents Association of McLeod Ganj, with the majority of the funds contributed by the Dalai Lama’s office. Most events are put on there after school hours, or on holidays, thereby not disturbing children’s education at all.
However, the authorities at the head office of all TCV schools near McLeod Ganj decided a few years ago not to let the Day School facilities out for public use, causing a major problem for all the NGOs and individuals.
It is said that Lukar Jam, in a speech at the Day School venue while campaigning for the post of Sikyong in 2016, made a passing remark on the Dalai Lama’s softening approach towards China, and since then the school authorities stopped letting the school be used for public events. Soon afterwards, Lukar Jam was denied permission to use the TCV college hostel in Bangalore.
Whatever Lukar Jam says will be his responsibility. Nobody criticised TCV for letting the space to him. Even if somebody criticises anyone within the premises of a TCV school, it will be that person’s responsibility. TCV doesn’t have to take the responsibility for that person’s views. Why would TCV try to stop anybody from speaking their mind anyway?
I have also used the TCV Day School for some of my own productions over the years. I have organised the Free Spirit Film Festival and Sing for Tibet at this venue, with all the dues cleared on time. But for the last few years, I have not been allowed to hold any event there. Ditto for the NGOs.
I have been hoping the situation will change, and kept going yearly to the TCV head office to request the venue for the film festival. I also requested the venue for the Miss Himalaya Pageant, a social, cultural, and educational event for the empowerment of young women from the Himalayan region. I had been particularly hopeful because the biggest film festival in the area had been organised at the main TCV School for three consecutive years, all the while we (NGOs and individuals) were being denied permission to use the TCV Day School in McLeod Ganj.
The big film festival organisers had everything at their disposal, using the TCV main hall as well as the grounds, even during school hours, and students were called to watch films.
I never brought up this problem with the school authorities because I am neither jealous nor do I feel any sense of competition with them. If theirs is going on well, so be it. I like that.
Last year, another film festival was given the Day School venue, but I was still refused. I didn’t complain because, again, if that festival is successful, I am happy.
This year, when I requested the Day School venue for my events, the President of TCV School refused as before, saying that it’s a “school environment,” and that the Board of Directors of the school had decided not to let the venue for public use.
Now answer this: What happened to that decision when others were allowed to use those venues?
These venues are not private property, that they can decide who could use them or not according to their whims and fancies. Its only because I am a commoner that they can discriminate like that. I don’t see any other reason. If we are to accept such injustice and discrimination, why not just accept that of the Chinese government as well? Why waste time and energy organising anti-China protests?
The purpose of this piece is not to make an issue about those who got the venue, but rather to say that the decision to not allow use of the Day School venue is not sensible at all. Such a decision seems to be nothing but a reflection of their incompetence and irresponsibility. What else is there to justify these illogical decisions on use of the venue? None of the events come in the way of children’s education, or anything like that.
An explanation is looked forward to, as to why the decision to not let the TCV Day School venue is good, or, what necessitated the authorities to make such a decision.
Its time for better sense to prevail, for the authorities to be competent, responsible, and practice all those flowery words — unity, responsibility, dedication for a better Tibetan society. Strive to make real those words emblazoned in bold at the main TCV School “Come to Learn, Go to Serve”.
About the author
Lobsang Wangyal lives in McLeod Ganj, India, and edits the Tibet Sun website.