Tibetan Youth Congress must succeed

Kunsang Tanzin

Kunsang Tanzin

By Kunsang Tanzin

TORONTO, Canada, 8 October 2020

I am writing this piece on the day that Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) is celebrating its fifty years of purposeful existence. I have a close emotional relationship with this organisation. I was an active member of this great grassroots organization during my college days. At that time I was a student of Delhi University, and at the same time I was one of the foot soldiers of Tibetan Youth Congress. As a member of TYC I would volunteer to go during weekends to the Tibetan camp at Majnuka Tilla and teach at their Sunday school. I had been to SOS schools in the Faridabad area to teach Tibetan students there.

Every year for six years, a few days before 10th March I would go to the Tibetan Camp to paint and write posters for the coming 10th March protest, and then on the eve of the 10th March I would go out riding a man-pulled rickshaw and paste our 10th March posters on the street walls of Delhi through out the night till the wee hours of the next day. And on the day of Tibetan National Uprising, with my eyes half-open due to the previous late-night poster work, I would go and join the protest by Tibetans in front of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. I have faced tear gas and police lathi charge and have been to Tihar Jail.

At other times I would participate, some times speak, in meetings organised to generate awareness about our struggle. As a student, in the campus as well as in hostel, I would speak to my professors and to my Indian and international college friends about Tibet and about our struggle.

Tibetan freedom struggle and TYC

The above story is not my story alone. This is actually the story of all those Tibetans who have been sincere members of TYC in their lives. This is the story about all of us, as members of TYC, who have made enormous contributions in our own small ways to carry forward the Tibetan struggle for independence. This is the story about how Tibetan Youth Congress provided each of us the opportunity to try to live up to the ideals reflected in the famous JFK speech, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In the process of serving the cause of Tibet, in return we all learned a lot of new things and gained much in life.

The story of the Tibetan freedom struggle in exile to a large extent has been the story of Tibetan Youth Congress. I say this because when it mattered to be on the streets or in front of office buildings to raise awareness and to garner support, there has been no other organisation in exile that can match what TYC has done and achieved thus far.

How can we forget in the early seventies that some of the Tibetans students from Delhi University gate-crashed the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi and tried to bring down the Chinese flag there. Their protest received good media attention. That is how Tibetan youth activism began in exile. How can we forget the upbeat inspiration among our people during the 1977 infinite hunger strike in front of the UNESCO office Lodi Estate area to demand recognition of our government in exile. How can we forget the excellent international news attention to the TYC indefinite hunger strikes in New Delhi, during which Pawo Thupten Ngodup in 1998 and Pawo Jamphel Yeshi in 2012 made the ultimate sacrifice by giving up their precious lives for the cause of Tibet. How can we forget the UNO acknowledgement of our demands as a result of the indefinite hunger strike in front of the UNO building in New York during the icy cold winter of 2012. How can we forget the unrivalled patriotism of nearly 350 members of TYC who landed in Tihar Jail for almost fifteen days as a result of the protests in the streets of New Delhi against 2008 Beijing Olympic.

These are just some of the important landmarks of the journey of Tibetan Youth Congress and its supporters during the last fifty years. The future generations of Tibet are bound to look upon these landmarks as a source great inspiration.

Tibetan Youth Congress is the biggest grassroots-based Tibetan political organization in exile. It is also the only organisation open to every Tibetan irrespective of age, gender, region (cholka), religion, or status. Even those who did not subscribe to a TYC membership had a strong sense of belonging towards Tibetan Youth Congress. As a result thousands and thousands of Tibetans are always willing to participate in TYC-organised movements, either through personal participations or through donations, both in cash and kind. Therefore, the fifty-years’ journey of Tibetan Youth Congress can be characterized as a Tibetan freedom struggle movement like any other freedom struggle movement in history.

No smooth sailing for TYC

Today Tibetan Youth Congress is celebrating its Golden Jubilee of existence and success. To reach this milestone was not smooth sailing for TYC. Tibetan politics took a turn when Deng Xiaoping took control of China after Mao. He began a new diplomacy under his famous theory known as “hide our capacity and bide your time.” With the change of leadership in China our official approach for independence switched to the Middle-Way approach, which is to seek autonomy instead of independence.

Since then the main demand of Tibetan Youth Congress for independence has been at odds with the official policy of seeking autonomy. However, TYC was able to walk the tightrope between the two approaches without causing major commotions. HH the Dalai Lama even visited Pawo Thupten Ngodup in hospital, and later criticized China stating, “today it’s clear that a sense of frustration and urgency is building up among many Tibetans.”

It was only after the adoption of a more hardline approach of the Middle-Way policy by the new exile Tibetan political leadership around 2005 that the Tibetan Youth Congress began to feel the tightening of the emerging political trend. As the new approach gained traction, the open and direct support from the Tibetans people for TYC began to dwindle.

Slowly even the demand for independence under the charter of TYC emerged as a key issue for public discussion. The Second Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People was convened in 2012 at Tibetan Children’s Village, and on the very first day of the meeting some of the participants rose to criticise TYC for its stand on independence. This was the first time since Tibet lost its independence that some Tibetans would openly and directly criticise the demand for Tibet’s independence in a public meeting as important as that ongoing meeting.

Barely six months later in the spring of 2013 the Tibetan Youth Congress had to face its first existential threat. During the 2013 14th General Body Meeting, some of the regional members demanded that Tibetan Youth Congress give up independence as a goal under the TYC charter. However, in an effort to save Tibetan Youth Congress and to lessen the pressure, the 14th General Body Meeting passed an unprecedented resolution which states, “Since we were unable to dispense required time during recently convened general body meeting, but in concordance to the fundamental principles of our code of conduct, we have adopted a resolution considering the re-amendment of article four of TYC aims and objectives at the next General Body Meeting.” This resolution was a major compromise and it served as a big body blow to the organisation. It has been now seven years that Tibetan Youth Congress has not undertaken any major protest or hunger strike for the cause of Tibet.

Changing times

Change is the nature of the universe. The current international geopolitics is not same as that existed when Deng took charge of China. By all indications China seems to have reached its zenith, politically and economically. On the other hand the world is beginning to see China from a different perspective: Changing from a perspective of engagement with China to a perspective of antagonism with China. As a result the political wind as well as the economic tide is increasingly turning against China. Under such a drastically-changing geopolitical environment against China, the Tibetan Youth Congress is in a unique position to seize the opportunity because of its organisational reach and strength. In light of the emerging worldwide antagonism towards China, the capacity of the current leadership of Tibet Youth Congress to match up with a favourable geopolitical environment will be tested more than ever before.

For Tibetan Youth Congress, the road to achieve our ultimate goal may be long and lonely. Yet we must keep marching and the Tibetan Youth Congress must succeed in the end. Rabindranath Tagore once wrote, “Jodi Tor Dak Shune Keu Na Ase Tobe Ekla Cholo Re (If no one responds to your call, then go your own way alone).” Above all, the bottom line of the raison d’etre of TYC is this: The youth inside Tibet secretly do keep track of the activities of organisations like TYC and SFT, and, that China sees Tibetan Youth Congress only as a dangerous group in exile. It is in this sense that the demand for Tibet’s independence is an asset of the cause of Tibet. No organisation, political or financial, can survive long with fast-dwindling assets.


As Tibetan Youth Congress celebrates its Golden Jubilee, we must remember and salute the ultimate sacrifices made by Pawo Thupten Ngodup and Pawo Jamphel Yeshi. We must also remember with respect the unimaginable sacrifices made by all those Tibetans who were part of indefinite hunger strikes for the cause of Tibet at various times and different locations. All these patriots had unbelievable courage, willingness and endurance to suffer and to give up their lives for the cause of Tibet without taking a grain of food for several weeks altogether. It is worthy to remember one particular TYC member who was on indefinite hunger strikes twice and as a result suffered permanent damage to his body organs. This person is surviving on perpetual medication.

About the author

Kunsang Tanzin has a Master’s degree from Delhi University, had edited The March newsletter of RTYC Delhi, was Joint Secretary of All-India Indo-Tibetan Friendship Society, New Delhi; an advisor to the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce. New Delhi; the Founder Trustee and Chairman of Empowering the Vision, New Delhi; and was the President of Tibetan Canadian Cultural Center and Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario.

Copyright © 2020 Kunsang Tanzin Published in Tibet Sun Posted in Opinions » Tags: , , , , , , ,