Clean chit to Karmapa on cash row



Shimla: Himachal Pradesh government today gave a clean chit to the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje in any financial irregularities and categorically ruled out the possibility of any action against him.

Chief Secretary Rajwant Sandhu said this while addressing media conference. She said “There is no involvement of the Karmapa (in any financial irregularities). We have reasons to believe that some donations came for the monastery and the Karmapa has nothing to do with that, as monastery’s other functionaries were looking after financial transactions.” She said police are still investigating where the seized currency, the bulk of it Chinese yuans, as also US dollar 600,000, came from and for what purpose it was kept. “Police are questioning the monastery functionaries and the law will take its own course,” she said. On recommending to the central government to deport the Karmapa from India, the chief secretary said: “There is no question at all.” She also clarified that there was no communication from the central government to go slow on the Karmapa issue. Police still believes that seized money was meant for some “illegal” land deal in Dharamsala with the involvement of the Karmapa’s aide Shakti Lama.

However, Rajwant Sandhu said: “The government is conducting the survey to know the ‘benami’ properties acquired by the exiles across the state. The law is equal for all, including the exiles.” Meanwhile, the government-in-exile has already clarified that the state government is free to take action against illegal land deals by the Tibetans. Ngodup Dorjee, secretary home department, government-in-exile, told Himvani “The Tibetans are bound to respect the Indian laws. We don’t interfere if the state government takes action against any individual or organisation for violating the laws in acquiring properties. As far the as government-in-exile is concerned, it has constructed buildings after taking permission from the state.” “Specifically, reports have circulated recently claiming that the Karmapa has acquired land along the Sino-Indian border. We state categorically that His Holiness owns no such property whatsoever, nor does the Karmapa’s Office of Administration,” said Karma Topden and Deki Chungyalpa, advisers to the Karmapa.

A police team has twice questioned the Karmapa about the recovery of money. A four member Enforcement Directorate team from Chandigarh, headed by deputy director V. Neeraja also scanned the account books, ledgers and documents pertaining to financial transactions and questioned the monastery officials.

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  1. The Flea Market of the Indian Media: Dibyesh Anand on the Karmapa story

    India prides itself for having a free and vibrant media. A recent story around Tibetan exile leader Karmapa lama has exposed the Indian media scene as closely resembling a chor bazaar. One where uninformed assertions, distorted facts, libelous statements, ad hominem attacks, and lazy analysis are recycled again and again to create a sensation.

    The remarkable convergence in how the different channels and newspapers covered the story of police raids and findings of unaccounted foreign currencies at Karmapa’s temporary establishment near Dharamsala is conspicuous. In the media, the unaccounted money is however presented in salacious and sensationalist manner. Money is not the focus, the Karmapa’s alleged China connection is. A possible financial irregularity of $1.6 million is a non-story in India where scams, schemes and scandals of billions erupt with the regularity of tides. The story becomes one of Karmapa as a probable Chinese spy.
    Karmapa is the third highest leader in Tibetan Buddhist world. Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje came into exile in 1999 at the age of 14, is the head og Kagyu sect, but often touted as a possible figure to lead the Tibetan people after the present Fourteenth Dalai Lama passes away.

    There are too many holes in the story conjured up by the media relying mostly upon the unnamed sources. So many that one can question the editorial judgements in allowing these to be reported or aired. Let me point out to some of the glaring problems in the Karmapa story as reported by many Indian channels and newspapers.

    First, why did Karmapa’s monastery have Indian and foreign currencies, including Chinese yuan, in cash? If Karmapa was indeed a ‘Chinese mole’, would the Chinese government be so stupid to send him ‘neatly stacked’ Chinese yuan to use in India? Did they think that Chinese yuan is so powerful that it can now be used in Dharamsala without raising any suspicion? Presence of so many types of foreign currencies point toward only one thing – Karmapa has followers and disciples all over the world. A simple online search by a journalist would have convinced her of the worldwide appeal of the Kagyu sect, including in the West, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. As for the mystery of Chinese yuan, what do journalists expect the Tibetans from Tibet, who have a strong tradition of patronising the lamas, to give their donations in? Tibetans live under severe restrictions inside China. Are they expected to go to the Bank of China’s Lhasa branch and say that they need dollars or rupees to send donations to their religious leaders (most of whom live in India)? Since when did it become a crime for religious leaders in India to have followers inside China (and Tibet is inside China) but not in any other part of the world? Well-off Tibetans as well as Chinese followers of Tibetan lamas will often use cash to avoid any problems with the authorities in China. The possession of foreign currency in cash may have broken laws in India but it has nothing to with Karmapa’s character.

    Second, Indian media keeps reporting that Karmapa may have been sent by China to take control of monasteries from Ladakh to Sikkim to Tawang. The addition of Tawang is the most glaring one here for it immediately raises concerns about security in the disputed area. Did any journalist bother to investigate what important monastery exists in Tawang that Karmapa could take over? There is no Kagyu monastery of significance in the region. Indian media seems completely ignorant about sectarian divisions within Tibetan Buddhism and shows no interest to appreciate the complexities of Tibetan Buddhist regions that belong to India.

    Third, some media reported that Karmapa had to answer questions through an interpreter because he can speak ‘only Chinese’. This is another lazy assertion for not only does the Karmapa speak excellent Tibetan but broken English and is learning Korean and Japanese.

    Surely good journalism is one where reports are verified, ‘facts’ presented by unnamed sources reconfirmed and taken with a critical distance, and all efforts are made not to damage personal reputation. Speculating in public about Karmapa being a Chinese spy is not only lazy journalism but a libelous attack on beliefs of millions of followers of Tibetan Buddhism. While the Dalai Lama may still harp on about Guru-Chela relations between Indians and Tibetans, this case of news sensationalism has questioned the cherished Indian myth of warm hospitality (what hospitality allows one to accuse the guest of being a spy?), exposed the Guru as irresponsible and ignorant, and harmed Indo-Tibetan relations. At the very least, the Indian media owes an apology to the Karmapa and the Tibetan community.

    Dr Dibyesh Anand is an Associate Professor in International Relations at London’s Westminster University and the author of ‘Tibet: A Victim of Geopolitcs’

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