Would we ever blame ourselves for the Tibetan crisis!


By: Satyakam Bharti

So the Himachal Pradesh government continues with its flip-flop on the Karmapa issue with the state chief secretary making a formal announcement declaring that the “state government trusts him fully” a day earlier, and then the Chief Minister himself contradicting her by saying that “there is no question of giving clean chit to anybody”. A couple of days earlier the state police had made every effort to vilify the religious leader and the state political big-wigs had fought a most unlikely war of words over the issue. While the whole debate over Himachali interests being compromised through benami land deals by Tibetans was waiting far an appropriate trigger, which happened to be recovery of unaccounted cash from Karmapa’s staff, the way the political establishment and the administrative machinery have conducted themselves over the last fortnight only reflects our own naiveté.

On the other hand, silence of the Union government reflects India’s perplexity in dealing with Ogyan Trinlay Dorje, the person, and therefore the status quo maintained over the last one decade is expected to continue. Or has the central government something up its sleeves? As of now, the way various wings of government have reacted to the development, there appears total lack of any definite policy on Tibetan refugees in general. If it was not so, them how come the government took 10 years to take action against the Karmapa on his alleged China links despite the fact that he has been living under near house arrest. And anyway, 10-years was a long enough time for India to decide what to do with him and maybe also to win him over, if we ever doubted his intentions.

The larger question, however, is of the common Tibetan refugees, who have been living with us for over five decades now. Let’s admit that there has always been an uncomfortable relationship between Himachalis and Tibetans and they live in two separate worlds, the reasons for which are several – from economy to culture and politics. The recent developments will take them further away, and our politicians have been contributing to that. Sadly, over these years hardly have we ever thought about their refugee status and life in exile. Surely, there are several Indo-Tibetan friendship forums, but their reach is limited to seminar rooms and there is no people-to-people contact.

So while, as any other refugee community, they have created an economy of their own, for locals it’s still a riddle how they manage their finances. While overtly it may appear that the Tibetans are comparatively well off, but that may not be the complete reality. In any case, Tibetans still need our land for shelter and to do business but we never understood this need of theirs, or rather decided not to bother ourselves with the thought.

From 8,000 in the 60s to nearly 2 lakh now (that’s the official figures though the actual numbers may be in the multiples), the Tibetan community today is spread across India, but they can’t buy property. So were they expected to live in hotel rooms throughout their life? Those who settled in Karnataka and were allowed forest land are today successful farmers. Why could the same not happen in Himachal? Because land in the mountains comes at a premium, and it’s more profitable to raise a hotel building than to till fields. The local administration had no problems with this arrangement because influential property dealers were earning in millions by buying cheap land from gullible local villagers and selling it to cash-rich Tibetan institutions and individuals. And anyway, the Tibetans just used the loopholes in our system to get benami land transections done that other non-Himachalis too have been exploiting without being questioned.

It would not be an exaggeration to claim that today almost every tourist property in the state is owned by a non-Himachali, and the government is silent about it. Why, because it suits the political and bureaucratic establishment and also the local land mafia. The state government needs to answer why a request from the office of the Dalai Lama to consider the issue of Tibetans’ property rights has not been decided yet. The situation cannot continue for ever as the third generation of Tibetans has already started applying for Indian citizenship, to which they are now legally entitled. What if it happens fast enough and in large numbers and also that they continue building huge monasteries across Himachal. Would we still call it cultural invasion and an attack to alter our demography? This scenario is unlikely to arise as the Tibetans are as desperate to preserve their identity as are we about not letting them usurp our resources. So let’s not be hypocritical but realistic and try to understand ground realities so that the two communities may co-exist without any ill-feelings, and considering our cultural, historical and political interests that should not be much of an effort, but only if our rulers show some signs of maturity.

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  1. well written article. Don’t know when the introspection will start. Still don’t see people in Himachal consider the agents of benami transactions as culprits. Given a chance, majority of the farmer in HP would like to sell lands.

  2. Thank you Bharti ji for this informative and well researched article about the issue of Tibetans. I am a second generation Tibetan, born, raised and grew up in Himachal just like any other Himachalis and the only difference between me and other Himachali friends is my background however I feel more of an Himachali Indian than Tibetan when I go out of Himachal or India and I am proud of my birthplace and the people of Himachal. I am an Indian citizen by birth and I should be given same rights as any other Indian in the state of Himachal Pradesh. There are more than 50 thousand second generation Tibetans approximately in Himachal who were born before 1987 and their parents from Tibet settled in parts of HP since 1960’s. Very few of them own land other than houses or plots given by Indian government on lease for Tibetan exile administration and Trusts for housing, cultivation, schools and other purposes. Tibetans have heavily invested in tourism business in Himachal like Hotels, restaurants, shops and handicrafts and cultural places like monasterys which generate huge amount of revenue to HP government through international and national tourism. Besides, Tibetan like me do no want to depend on HP government for handouts other than help in  regularising laws that are equal to everyone without any prejudice and consequences based on religious, social or racial  background. I urge the Indian media and the politicians to not politicize any matters that are common in some parts of state however different when dealing with Tibetans. We are all Himachalis and we are the Himalayans! God bless us all! Jai Hind! Jai Tibet! 

      • Thank you Rahul. We need more Himachali and Indian friends to come forward and speak for us. Don’t let few politicians dictate our way of life by picking on some stray incidences and cause social disharmony and tension. Thanks again, God bless u. 

  3. Thank you for this informative article. I’m a French disciple of H.H. the Karmapa.

    We here in Europe are eagerly awaiting the moment that he is free to travel internationally. So far, it’s only thanks to internet technology that I’ve been able to see him and listen to his teachings. For this, at least, I’m very grateful. That surely wouldn’t have been possible had he stayed in Tibet.

    I wasn’t at all aware of the troubling status of Tibetan immigrants in Himachal Pradesh. Refugees have difficulties everywhere, it’s true, but I would have thought that India would be proud to shelter such precious Buddhist teachers.

    I find your site interesting, and I’m going to add it to my Facebook pages.

    Good luck to you all. May everything be auspicious!

  4. Thank you so much for the beautiful article. We need more enlightened people like you in India and especially the bureaucrats. Could you please publish this article in the local dailies like punjab kesri, Amar Ujala and Divya Himachal. I feel these local papers are inciting hatred and discontent between the Himachali and Tibetan community with their irresponsible journalism. Thanks

  5. Thank you Bharti for this wonderful article. I came from Tibet and lived in Himachal for the past 14 years.
    I have no an Indian National passport but holding an RC that should be renewed yearly.
    I always feel that India is very grateful for us however I feel insecure with the local Himachalis. I am not saying that they are bad, but they treat us in a different way. Whenever we go in an Indian shop or go by an Indian Taxi, they look down us very low even though we pay same amount of money as Americans or Europeans pay.
    like me, most of Tibetans living in Himachal had to live in hotels for years. Every year we had to be doubled our room rent. For a single room with an attached toilet, we had to pay RS 3000-3500 per month. If a Tibetan earns RS 7000 thousand for a month, half of that goes for room rent.
    I have a gas cylinder and a bed in my room and I am paying Rs 3000 for the room rent but I never felt to call that room as my home. I am not in a position to buy a house or land, but I like to see that other Tibetans have this right. We are not staying in India permanently. One day we will go back to Tibet and that land will remain here. While we are living in Himachal I wonder if I can call this place as our home.

    • You quoted that you are living in Himachal for last 14 years. Can you highlight even a single event that had led you to the conclusion that you are insecure over here. No. I don’t think that you seriously have any authentic reason to make such a statement.

  6. it’s high time the Indian government gathers some courage to openly declare support for the Tibetan cause. It already has an excuse – continuous pestering by China

  7. I strongly disagree with the appeal made by some of my friends on this forum that Himachalis should come forward in support of the tibetan fraternity living in the state for more than 6 decades now.
    Our ancestors fought for independence from their own land. They never tood refuge in any other country for the freedom struggle. Same mode should be adopted by the tibetans to pursue their freedom struggle. The fact is that 95% of them are not interested in freedom or something like that. They want to enjoy n earn through their established businesses in India and at times organizes processions and protests against China to fool us.
    How many of you guys think that what they are doing is correct?
    Politicians for the sake of vote bank politics has converted India into a refugee camp. There are crores of bangladeshi refugees, nepalis, tibetans, etc. etc. when our so called political representatives are not able to fulfil the needs of first indian citizens.

    I would like to appeal to our so called representatives to atleast unite once for the sake of the nation and do something concrete to deal with these refugees (sent them back to their respective countries) without any delay.

    Jai Hind….Jai Bharat

    • My friend Vivek, 
      I totally agree to disagree with you. Tibetans did came forward as soldier of Indian Army with Est. 22 Special Frontier Force and as a ‘refugee’  to defend not only Himachal but whole of India  on frontiers of Kargil, Siachen, Assam, Chittagong,Op-Bluestar and so on. Many of our Tibetan as well as Nepali brothers lost their lives defending their ‘adopted’ mother-India and you can check about their sacrifices, courage and valiance by clicking a mouse on Internet any time. 
      I salute all the freedom fighters of India who fought against British Raj and our Tibetan brothers who are fighting with  Pakistani terrorists and Chinese infiltrators everyday on the borders of India. India is such a multi-cultural diverse nation that anybody can co-exist in harmony, understanding and peace from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to Gujurat to Arunachal Pradesh with 22 different ethnic languages. India has ‘DIL’ for anyone whose ‘JAAN’ is sacrificed for Indias ‘SHAAN’! 
      Our parents took refuge in India because Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru graciously offered asylum to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of other Tibetans in all parts of India. Tibetans were also offered choices of ‘refuge’ by other nations like Iceland & Swiss but they decided to stay in India because it is closer to Tibet and India has so much things in common with Tibet culturally. Tibetans had since then worked so hard in exile that today they prospered in all forms of business in India from agriculturists in the South to Hoteliers and restauranteer in the North of India and are enjoying the fruits of their labour today with their children. There are now three generation of Tibetans living in exile and those who arrived in India during the 1950’s had perished since then and passed the ‘torch’ of freedom in Tibet to the next generation. Besides, the demographic of Tibetans in India is changing every year  because of social, economic and political reasons. There are now thousands of Tibetans who were born as Indian and those who recently arrived from Tibet from persecution and it is very important for the Indian nationals to understand the difference between these two, one who speaks Hindi and one who can speak Chinese besides Tibetan and maybe English. The constitution of India guarantees all the rights and freedom to those Tibetans who were born in India as it’s citizen and the question of expulsion of those Tibetan is ridiculous and unconstitutional. Whereas the Tibetan new-arrivals to India are constantly kept under supervision by local, state  and central authorities and some do return back to Tibet after getting education or pilgrimage but very few of them remain in India for seeking asylum. 
       India is unlike any other country and we are happy and proud of her democratic principles where rule of law and constitution governs every matter including the ‘refugee’ issues. Tibetans are grateful to India for it’s humanitarian help and generosity offered to our Guru and our people. We respect the India’s supreme law and constitution and will follow accordingly without any prejudice and malice based on race, creed, color, nationality, religion and so on. ‘Refugees will definitely go home if they have a home to go’ and the issue of refugee is not only India’s problem but of the world. There are also Indian refugees in America, Canada and Europe  and no sensible citizen of that country will ask them to leave, not even their politically ‘biased’ politicians. Refugee issue is a humanitarian issue and humans should be given same rights and freedom and that’s what human rights is all about and that’s what our freedom fighters had been fighting for with British Raj. 
      I once again thank Satyakam Bharti ji for this wonderful article. 
      God bless us all! Jai Hind! Jai Tibet! 

      • Dear Tashi,
        First of all I would like to clarify that my comment was not in response to the comment posted by you. I posted my appeal to India politicians to make necessary amendments in the constitution if it offers asylum to anybody who wish to settle in India. Secondly i dont feel very proud to say or accept that people like Nehru invited you guys to india and if it is so then i personally feel very low and cheated by our own people. thirdly, you will definitely like the post by Bharti Jee as it is as per your beliefs. Just like you, i can also quote numerous examples in my favour of my comment……..but would not like to discuss them on this forum.

        • Mr. Vivek, I pity you and your opinion. I only hope you are doing very well and are prosperous and happy and enjoying your life with your little family (if you have one) where ever you are. People of your depth are a rarity. Fortunately not all Indians have your kind of twisted brain.

    • I would have to agree with you on some points Vivek. I think everyone needs more openness and honesty from both sides. I grew up close to Tibetan refugees and the ‘more Tibetan than Indian’ feeling was obvious through the years. I’m so glad to have heard from some like Tashi Lama. Wish I had more Tibetans like him in my neighborhood.
      As far as the Europeans are concerned, I think the best they can do is shut up and keep the emphasis on the ‘meditation and reading Dalai Lama books’ part. I’ve lived in the west for years, been around the world and I can tell everyone reading this that when it comes to the people in the west, the current price of a Croissant (yes, I picked that particular Patisserie product on purpose Margaret) weighs on the mind more than what’s going on in rural Afghanistan. Pretty crazy how these guys read stuff on the internet and think they have a say in other countries’ political situations. 
      Having said that, I do believe it takes two (to Tango or build a nice, multi-cultural community). Himachalis need to involve the Tibetan-Himachalis more in their lives and the Tibetan-Himachalis need to open up a bit more. 
      Again, Tashi, would’ve loved to have a friend like you while growing up.

  8. That appears streight from the heart, Tashi ji. I wish die-hard patriots of Bharat Mata go through some official records to know how many Tibetans died in the India-Pakistan war in Bangladesh. Or for busy ones, there’s a simple story in `Nine Lives’ about a Tibetan monk from Dharamsala who faught for India in Bangladesh. I wish patriotism frees itself from jingoism.

    • Nirvan ji, 
      People should know what troubles Tibetans went through since they lost their country. However, those who are in India kept  going  on and fought both Chinese and enemies of India externally and internally for India. 
      Here is a link to check the records of Tibetan service to India. I hope it enlightens lot of people: 


    • As a human being my head hangs in shame after reading views from self proclaimed & hollow pseudo-patriots like you. Just hope and pray for consciousness, health, wisdom and well-being of our country so that this nation leaves no space for illetrate fascists like you, who are filled with pseudo-patriotic flavor of the pre-historic times.
      Jai Hind.

  9. I would like to see many more Tibetan refugees in Europe. There is so much interest for the Buddhadharma here, and the study of classical Tibetan is most important to keep this valuable tradition alive. The study and practice of Buddhism is just in its beginning stages in our Western countries. Strong Tibetan communties are needed all over the world to show the example of a living Buddhism. China lost so much when the masters were forced either to flea or to be imprisoned. I’m unbelieveably grateful for this chance I’ve been given to practice the dharma which has now arrived in my country, thanks to the Tibetans who were forced to become refugees.

  10. I hope this another article by ShoBhan Sexana in Times of India will clarify lot of misunderstanding: 


    India must apologise to Karmapa lama

    In the age of 24×7 TV channels facts are not sacrosanct and the only things that matter are screaming headlines, half-baked theories and silly opinions. The Karmapa affair is a good example of this malaise. Now the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has given a clean chit to the Karmapa Lama in the case involving seizure of foreign currency from ‘his’ monastery. But HP chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has refused to comment on the clean chit to the Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje, from the Central agencies which looked into the alleged violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act by the Tibetan leader.However, while speaking to some Tibetan reporters at Dharamsala on Thursday, Dhumal sang a diiferent tune.  “Karmapa’s name in any way is not involved in any land related cases. Neither there are any cases against some particular monastery person,” said Dhumal. This is the same chief minister who has been going hammer and tongs at the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama and the entire Tibetan community in exile, making all kinds of wild allegations. To push his case, Dhumal even went to the extent of asking the Centre to reimburse the “entire amount of money spent by
    the Himachal government on the security of the Dalai Lama and Karmapa Lama”. Now, it seems he has lost faith in his police but he won’t admit it because the lies about the Karmapa have been repeated too many times.
    Since lies spread faster than truth, these bizarre allegations against the Karmapa appeared in the media as the gospel truth. Stories coming from unnamed, anonymous sources were played on prime-time TV and splashed across the newspapers, leaving no doubt in some minds that the Karmapa was upto some mischief. First they blew smoke in the air and then began looking for the fire. With the state government and media hunting in pair, the Karmapa had no chance to prove his innocence. The Tibetan spiritual guru had already been declared guilty by suspicion. The entire Tibetan community in India had been put under the scanner.  
    The day the police raided the Gyuto Tantric Monastery in Dharamsala and allegedly found Rs 6 crore in possession of a resident of the monastery, TV screens were swarmed by conspiracy theories. Nothing was backed by facts. Truth was drowned in the cacophony of mindless allegations. If anything has been exposed by this unfortunate drama, it’s the ignorance and gullibility of the Indian police and media.   
    Here is a look at some ‘facts and evidence’ which were either ignored or deliberately twisted by the media and their “invisible” sources to prove that the Karmapa was indeed a Chinese spy who had come to India to grab land across the Himalayan range on behalf of the Chinese government: 
    Chinese currency found at the monastery: It was alleged that the Karmapa is a Chinese spy because 1.1 million Chinese Yuan were found at the monastery. The police and media forgot to report that currencies of 25 other countries, including Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, UK, US, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, were part of the cash found. Also, they ignored the fact that some travellers cheques were also found. They ignored this fact because it could prove that the money had come from hundreds of devotees from dozens of countries who visit the Karmapa every day, unless the police meant to accuse the Karmapa of working as a spy for all the 25 countries. 
    And it didn’t occur to any reporter and investigator that the Chinese have to be very stupid to send their currency to the Karmapa. As it’s not an international currency, the Yuan is just a piece of paper in India. One can’t even buy a loaf of bread with it, forget using it for espionage. It’s like sending an Indian spy to China with bundles of rupees. Plain stupid.    The Karmapa monastery is illegal: The DGP of Himachal alleged that the land deal for the Karmapa monastery proved that it was a ‘benami property’. The allegation was parroted by the media without anyone pointing out that the Gyuto Tantric Monastery is neither owned nor constructed by the Karmapa. This monastery came up in the late 90s, years before Karmapa arrived in India. In fact, parts of the complex were still under construction when the Karmapa moved there in 2000. He lives in a small apartment on the top floor of this monastery and has nothing to do with the affairs of this institute. It’s absolutely wrong to call it Karmapa’s monastery. The Karmapa’s monastery, Rumtek, is in Sikkim and he has been waiting for permission from the government of India to go there. Also, his application for building a monastery in HP is pending with the government.  He was sent to India by China: In 2000, when the Karmapa escaped to India, the Chinese claimed that he had gone to India to “collect some books and musical instruments”. If he was their spy and his escape was stage-managed by Beijing, why would the Chinese be defensive on the issue and claim that he would come back to Tibet. It beats all logic. In fact, the Karmapa’s escape was a huge embarrassment for China. It was the biggest escape from Tibet since 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled to India. It was the single biggest failure of China’s policy in Tibet. To control the damage the Chinese floated a bizarre theory and we swallowed it hook, line and sinker . The Himachal police, which accused him of being a spy, hasn’t produced a single piece of evidence, not even telephone call records, to prove that the Karmapa is in touch with someone in China.     Karmapa owns huge properties: One of the allegations made against the Karmapa was that he owns properties worth $1.5 million, including the Gyuto Tantric Monastery where he is staying at present. The fact that this monastery is not owned or built by the Karmapa was completely ignored. Also the fact that it was the Dalai Lama who had made arrangements for the Karmpapa to stay in two rooms at the top of Gyuto monastery was completely ignored. I have interviewed the Karmapaa at his residence a few times. It is a very small house with a small balcony. The police hasn’t produced any evidence so far which suggests that the Karmapa owns properties worth $1.5 million in India. But this lie was flashed on TV screens as breaking news for days. And now Himachal CM says there’s no case against the Karmapa.    He doesn’t speak against China: One strong “evidence” against the Karmapa, according to his detractors, is that he hasn’t said anything against China since he came to India. Again a total lie. In his first meeting with the press in 2000, the Karmapa clearly had categorically said that he escaped to India because there was “no freedom in Tibet”. In my interviews with him in the years 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2008, he spoke about issues of religious freedom and human rights in China. Of late, he has been talking about environmental degradation in Tibet. As recently as December 8, 2010, I, along with some other journalists met the Karmapa at Bodhgaya and he again spoke about the problems in China-controlled Tibet. Also, his detractors forget a simple fact that the Karmapa is not a political leader but head of one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism, the Karma Kagyu sect. He is a spiritual leader. In the 1000 years of their history, the Karmapas have been entirely spiritual. The Karmapa is not supposed to talk about political issues. That role is reserved for he Dalai Lama who is the political leader of all Tibetans irrespective of their sects. We also never hear political comments from the heads of two other Tibetan sects, Nyingma and Sakya, but no one accuses them of being Chinese spies. So why single out the Karmapa?     The Himachal government has committed a Himalayan blunder by casting aspersions on the Karmapa in particular and the Tibetans in exile in general. Suddenly, there is a feeling among the Tibetans that they can’t take their freedom in India for granted. This witch-hunt has rattled the community. So vicious were the attacks against the Tibetans that even the Dalai Lama, the most popular person in the world and India’s best global ambassador, was accused by a nitwit of land grabbing. It was preposterous and stupid. India should reassure the Tibetans that they are safe in this country and no political party will cut a deal with China for short-term gains at the expense of Tibetan refugees in India.  To begin with, the government must apologise to the Karmapa Lama.    

  11. I don’t know who is to be blamed either our Government or Tibetians or ourself Himachali’s who are selling there valuable land to just satisfy our present greed.The sufferer will be our next generation who will never forgive us if we go the way we are going.Because if any time the economy fall.Only land will the source of bread for us The money which we are keeping in Banks will be of no use because at the time of Ecnomic crisis the banks will be also in the crisis. The way what happened in USA few years back.The 90 years old man has to find job in USA as seen in Television because of the bankruptcy.North Korea who was having good economy before second worldwar presntly have to dismentle the infra structure to have a piece of land for cultivation.

  12. I think Tibetians should follow what Indians has done to free their country from the hands of Britishers.Because to taste freedom one has to give their lives.Even Mahatma Gandhi has to come India from South Africa to fight with Britishers.Tibetians can’t get freedom by just raising slogans against China from other country.We respect Tibetians as they are guest in our Country.They have to follow the way just like Egypt,Libya & other countries otherwise I don’t know what for they are in India.

    • Dear Umesh,
      If you go a little up in this post u will find my post against which i recieved a good copy paste job done by a tibetan or a tibetan sympathiser. I posted exactly what you have written in your second post but its a pity to me that not even a single himachali raised to the occasion to support my post. I compliment you for showing the courage to speak the truth.

      • No one will say anything on this.Because everyone is busy in their livelihood and no one wants to waste time on such topics.Presently everyone people of Dharamsala who have some concern with Tibetians won’t say anything.The time when other country will overpower us & again we will be Gulam at that time these people will realise.But at that time no one will listen to them.The best solution for this is who so ever is refuge In India should be made Indian Citizen.

  13. So India has placed the Karmapa under house arrest with no evidence whatsoever, listening to his phone conversations, restricting his movement as well as following his every move….I wonder how the Karmapa likes India’s freedom and democracy??? LOL

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