ISSN 2330-717X

Fatal Flames In Tibet – OpEd

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Lobsang Kalsang was only 18 years old when she set herself in flames last year. Another monk named Phuntsog, 19 years old, followed the same course. The trend of self immolation was later adopted by Kalsang Wangchuk (17 years), Khayin (18 years), Choephel (19 years), Norbu Damdul (19 years) and many others who wanted the world to recognize the motive behind their death. This year alone, more than a dozen cases of self immolation have signaled a radical humanitarian crisis in Tibet. The wave of unprecedented death amongst the Tibetan youths has sent a spine chilling message across the globe.

After bearing the Chinese regime for more than six decades, the cumulative pain of the Tibetans has been spilling in the form of extreme human sacrifice. Self immolation has become a new metaphor to vent their disappointment. The pattern of self immolation, carried out by Tibetan monks and nuns has shocked the world. 21 activists have already set themselves in flames to protest against the Chinese authority.

This new form of protest shows the failure of China’s policies on Tibet. A renewed voice of Tibetan nationalism runs in the hearts and minds of the people. Continuous trend of self immolation has suddenly attracted the world towards Tibet. This wild form of protest shows how the Tibetans want to make their desperation visible. With the growing number of incidents that has disturbed the Himalayan fraternity, it does not seem this practice will end soon. Incidents of self immolation have further fueled the Tibetans to take a decisive step against the regime. At the juncture of this heart rending sacrifice, the Tibetan communities spread across the globe have been fervently fanning their campaigns for an independent Tibetan homeland.

Self immolation is perhaps the most desperate form of human protest. Nothing can be as painful as dousing oneself into a raging flame. The rationale here is different than other suicide bombers who inflict harm upon others. However, China has tagged the self immolators as terrorists. Why are they called terrorists? The Chinese authority can alone answer the world. Given the gravity of the challenge, posed by this distressing event, China will have to embark a softer stance in dealing with the Tibetans. It is obvious that the Tibetans cannot fight back but they may finish themselves in this sacrificial mania if things do not change. In response to self immolation, China has done nothing to curb the problem, apart from beefing up and fortifying their army which is already strong.

The chain of human sacrifice in the Tibetan plateau is likely to rise, if China remains adamant to reformative changes. Policing the Tibetan monasteries, restricting their rights of movements, arresting their religious freedom and freedom of speech will further ignite unrest in the region. Thus, China must put an abrupt halt to the cultural genocide that it has been practicing since six decades. If the death of 21 Tibetans can shake the world, it is obvious that thousands of Tibetans would be willing to die to make themselves heard.

No one knows the reality of Tibet more than China. Over the years, the heavy-handedness of this huge bureaucracy has fractured the spirit of the Tibetans. Discouraging foreign Journalists from Tibet, enforcing rigorous measures against their religion, culture and linguistic identity has aggravated the situation. Years of repression have bitterly crushed the Tibetan population. China must be willing to consider a meaningful Tibetan autonomy by shaping its policies. Tibet can remain an integral part of China by becoming a religious autonomy and China can still exercise their vested political interest.

Since China is emerging as an enlightened state in terms of economy and growth, it must rise above narrow indifferences and respect the fundamental rights as described in the UN charter. Only rightful legal concessions, infused with democratic values can save the dying monks of Tibet. If China overlooks the plight of the Tibetans, a time will come when the mountains of Tibet will reverberate with the echoes of burning monks and nuns. Peaceful dialogue between the Chinese government and their Tibetan counterparts is the only way to break this political impasse that is silently killing the language, religion, culture and lives of Tibetans.

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Nabin Kumar Chhetri

Nabin Kumar Chhetri is a Nepalese author and a member of The Scottish Pen. His works have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, The Statesman, Eurasia Review, The Kathmandu Post, Nepal News and The Darjeeling Times. He can be reached at [email protected]

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