Thursday, April 17, 2008

Here comes the Olympic shame

The Olympic shame – oops, flame -- passed through New Delhi today like a pampered head of state, watched by more than 20,000 men-in-arms, forcing thousands of homes and offices to keep their windows closed lest they be harbouring a sharpshooter, shutting down the heart of the city and inconveniencing tens of thousands of people to prevent Tibetan protesters from lunging at the torch headed for Beijing. India had pulled its colonial finery out of the closet.

Bravo. It is a display of slavery that even the Chinese would not have expected.

Clearly, India has lost its sense of proportion. We are a democracy, of course – people can come last.
What happened in New Delhi during the passing of the Olympic torch was yet another piece of the jigsaw of India’s farce over the Tibet issue. Since 1959, India has pampered Tibetan refugees, even as it cruelly ignored its own internal displaced – everyone from Kashmiri Pandits to those displaced by infrastructure projects, and even those seeking a homeland in Kashmir and northeast just like the Tibetans. And then, India kneeled down to Chinese concerns to ensnare New Delhi with security paraphernalia that a U.S. president would be jealous of.
So here is the big picture: India will do nothing to prevent its workers from being put out of jobs by a deluge of cheap and substandard Chinese goods, leaving hundreds of thousands of its citizens – from carpenters to memento artisans to toy makers to electronics goods makers – struggling and out of jobs. India will also do nothing to prevent incursions by the Chinese into what New Delhi claims is its territory. But it will go out of the way to clamp down on its capital city to snuff out fury of the Tibetan refugees against the Chinese government.
This is what that means: due to an internal Chinese issue, Indian people cannot go to work, to job interviews, to hospitals, to pick up people at the railway station.
Ah, that brings me to the refugees. India has spent more than Rs 20 crores in recent times to help Tibetan refugees. That, of course, does not include the costs in diplomacy, or real estate -- go to any hill station in India, and you will find that authorities have provided land in the best of locations for "Tibetan refugee markets". This largesse is at the expense of the local unemployed youth, of course, but then the young jobless in Nainital or Darjeeling or Dadri don’t have a sexy cause to back them, do they?
And try finding the refugees at these markets. At most of these shops, you will find, have underpaid Indian servants of the Tibetan refugees. The new generation of the Tibetan in India is not a victim.

The Dalai Lama is a decent man. It is his opponents, the Chinese, and his followers, the Tibetan youth, that I have a problem with. And more than that, I have a problem with how India has dealt with these two protagonists in the Tibet story.
What is the contribution that Tibetan refugees have made to the Indian nation, society and people over the past fifty years? What is their level of involvement and engagement with this country? When Indian refugees or migrants go abroad they make small and big, but always important, contributions to their society. They have a sense of belonging. They drive forward economies.

At a very basic level, the Tibetan story, for me, is about losing one’s home. It is a tragedy I completely empathise with. But it is a tragedy that is resonating far more eloquently in India for Indians – and I am keen to know what India is willing to do for the Kashmiri Pandits who have become a big yawn for the government; for the Kashmiri Muslims and people in many areas in the Northeast who also have an aspiration like the Tibetans for a homeland; and for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the so-called New India.

India’s warlike exercise to prevent a little flame from being snuffed out has only highlighted the shameful and hypocritical state of denial about the other fires of discontent raging across this nation.

Photos courtsey: PTI, top, and Gautam Singh (AP)


thra said...

Most Indians themselves will not talk to you properly if they have a large foreign serving to handle. You set the way. I think you are mixing issues, some which you have not expressed probably. At the level you disgrace Tibetians, there is a lot to disgrace between Indians themselves. You know well. India has succesfully become an unpopular neighbour and think about why? You do not have many decent role models to stand by you in your argument. Many young Tibetians are very Indian... if you consider all Indians and not only your little world - which I am sure are very upright and tight.

thra said...

just to clarify... i am Indian...

rashneek kher said...

While one has seen huge media attention to the issue of exodus of 1.25 lac Tibetian refugees one wonders why is the media sleeping when it comes to the issue of Pandits.
Even here the government of India's role is diabolical.They kneel in front of anyone who makes them kneel China or Pakistan,it makes no difference to them.

Nomad said...

Service Before Self... thats the Motto of the Indian State.

Dear Thra, I care a damn about whether you are Indian or not, but the bottom line is that India accepts TIBET as an integral part of CHINA, and yet allows Tibetan Government in exile to function from Indian soil. Indian state has no business treating Tibetans like Jamai's here. Lets first set our own house in order before getting into settling the disputes of neighbours.

I care a damn about what happens to Tibetans because I feel the first right to any state aid belongs to India's internally displaced.

As regards becoming a hated neighbour, that is in the hands of the Indian diaspora and citizens. When people like you and me give up our self assumed superiority over regional neighbours things will automatically change.

And dont read too much into that hate story because Indians are also hated for their single minded zeal to excel and make money when staying outside India, which the exports of other nations have not been able to do as successfully.

pooja said...

In the past few weeks, I've read innumerable stories about the Tibet issue,all reiterating similar words. The author here dared to pen down a different piece. I appreciate that.

Its bizarre to realise, how the countrymen lend no ear for the internally displaced [out of any confict], but a tibetan issue [which they have no knowledge about] will help them form a 100 opinions.!

As for the pandits, they never really wanted a seperate homeland in the first place. All they desired was to peacefully live in their own homes. It was not meant to be...

And northeast,well, has always been ignored. By the media, the politicians, even the pseudo-intellectuals.lolz. But i remember your series of articles on Manipur and other northeastern regions, where you covered the deprived state of the locals as a result of insurgency.

Though the tibetan n kashmiri pandit issues are incomparable, yet they share one common ground. Innocents thrown into exile by fanatics...

Pooja Shali

sengemo said...


I am one of what you call "India's most ungrateful and arrogant refugees". Yes I am a Tibetan and I must say I experienced a lot of emotions while reading your blog - emotions ranging from anger to surprise and many in between.

India is a free country and we all have freedom to speak our minds, something you and I would'nt have had had we been Chinese citizens.

I agree with most of the things you said but I think your knowledge of the Tibetan refugees is very limited. I can't talk on behalf on all Tibetans but I feel I must say some things.

I agree most Tibetans have underpaid Indian help, at some places the shopkeepers would only talk to foreigners and yes, the Indian govt has been helping us since the time of my grandparents. But how many Tibetan places have you visited personally?

I am a Tibetan and I work in the same organisation as you. I am not a hustler as you mentioned. I pay taxes to the Indian govt and I feel as much Indian as you do. I have raised my voice against the quota system and I cheer equally hard when India wins a cricket match.

We Tibetans may not have contributed much to India but I am sure you know the total population of Tibetans in India. I don't know if you know, but in the Bangladesh war, many Tibetans died fighting for India. Yes hundreds of these very ungrateful Tibetans died. My grandfather, like many, died making roads in India. My ungrateful grandfather!

I think maybe one day we should sit and chat, if you have time.

Tenzin (Mona's neighbour)

Piyusha said...

I appreciate that u have edited certain parts of the post. I too found them sweeping comments. I still do not agree to that part where u write that as Indian migrants, we make small/big contributions to other nations. Are you sure that those nations or their people read our "contributions" in the same light and they do not react as this blog reacted to a certain section (may be big, not small, but still a section) of Tibetans.
But I also agree with you when you talk about our ridiculous security arrangements to ensure the safety of the flame.

nima said...

Seems the debate refuses to die down, when it comes to the (un)grateful Tibetans. As an individual first and then a Tibetan, I give no right to anybody to tell who or what I am. But again aren’t perceptions or opinions created by what we read and see, aren’t bias decisions made because as a human, one is always suppose to take a side – right or left. Today, I speak because i refuse stereotypes to dictate opinions.

To me this Blog reflects the same sentiments expressed by indigenous people of Britain, Canada, Malaysia, Fiji, and Mauritius for the NRIs (non-resident (reliable) Indians). Are British Punjabis on the Indian side or our side, are the Malaysian Tamils with us or with Tamil Nadu. Every time your loyalty will be questioned just because you came from somewhere or because you represent a dual identity. One is expected to flaunt ones loyalty up his sleeve!

But in this regard, I think it was not fair to compare the issue of Kashmiri Pundits, North East (Ulfa, Bodoland, Naga, etc) with the Tibetan cause. They are entirely two different things. In the contest of the recent protests, please note, Tibetans are protesting, not because India for its own interest admitted Tibet to be an integral part of China (don’t forget, India plays the Tibet card with China every time China threatens it with claims of Arunachal or Sikkim), not because as refugees, they are not treated well, not because Amir Khan ran in the Olympic relay. They protested because their brothers and sisters in Tibet were oppressed and silenced, they protested because in a democratic country like India, their voices if not heard at least won’t be silenced.

But I must admit that some of the references given by the writer in the blog regarding Tibetans are true. And I for personally don’t feel because of some comments, the writer should have edited the blog. What good is a journalist if he is not writing what he believes to be – left or right is irrelevant in journalism? I mean writing another blog supporting your argument or after more research, presenting another view could have been better.

Again, I for no reason need to wear my loyalty for India on my sleeve or explain it to anybody. Hence don’t want to rant about what Tibetans have done or the Dalai Lama has done for India’s image. We all will, anyway fall in the category of right or left.

Independence of Tibet is a just cause and I thank those who support this and have nothing against who don’t. I also don’t hold any grudge against hon’ble PM Manmohan Singh or Shri Atalji for not supporting Tibetan Independence just as I don’t have any grudge against these very people and the likes of Richard Gere and Bhaichung Bhutia for doing nothing for the Kashmiri Pundits. But, I am sure just as Mr. Nilesh Mishra (assuming he is) you are all doing your part for the Kasmiri Pundits.


Karma said...

Dear Mr. Misra, I don't know how much you know about the Tibetan diaspora in India, but it seems to me that you perhaps may have encountered some bad experiences with Tibetans for you to form such an opinion. Let me break down your statements.

I don't know if India has given preferential treatment to Tibetans or whether it has spent crores of rupees, but certainly no Tibetan is ungrateful for what India has done for us, and we are all taught by the Dalai Lama to always respect our host wherever we go.

Tibetan population in India is so insignificant compared to the whole population, so to blame us for unemployment is a bit ludicrous. If local Indians are capable of running their own businesses, then, I think the presence of Tibetans only help, and not hurt as local Indians can do business with Tibetans.

It is not only that Tibetans have employed underpaid servants, go to any non-Tibetan business, and you will also find underpaid servants. I am not trying to justify this, but you make this point as if we are the only ones doing it. Personally, I don't agree with this practice, and I strongly condemn employment of child laborers. And, I tell my fellow Tibetans to never hire child servants.

What is our contribution to the Indian society? I can list many, but unless you have lived with Tibetans side by side for many years, our contributions will never been seen or felt. Ofcourse we have not created TATA or been responsible for creating nuclear weapons for India, but we certainly have contributed to India's well beings relative of our population of a mere 130,000.
Here are some examples, before we moved to the refugee settlements, they were simply forests or just neglected ghost towns. The largest refugee camp Bylakuppee in Karnataka was just a dense forest. Dharamsala is now a top tourist town, what was it before Dalai Lama moved in? So certainly we have contributed to our respective local economy.
You say that Indian migrants contribute big and small when they go abroad, well, I have lived in the US for more than a decade now, and I send money to my relatives back in India, in turn, they spend that money on local businesses, thus contributing to the local economy. I have gone back to India many times, and I am active in some schools to improve infrastructure, hygiene, and curriculum, and I donate money to these schools, so unless you have thoroughly researched how Tibetans living abroad like me have contributed back to India, it is a bit disheartening for me to hear such claims.
One more contribution of us is the Special Frontier Force unit of the Indian army. SFF is made up of Tibetan refugees who have fought Pakistan, and many have perished, so for you to neglect the contributions of those who gave up their lives for India is wrong.

Also, when you ask about our contributions, well one of the reasons why we perhaps may not have made big contributions (in your eyes) is that we are not permitted to have an Indian passport, we are only given an identity card that basically states that we are in India temporarily even if we are born in India like in my case, and also, If we are recognized as Indian citizens, then, perhaps we can vote, and partake in the political process, and contribute more.
Well, on a lighter note, we are a big consumer of anything Bollywood, so we do contribute to the Indian economy as Bollywood is a major industry.

On a personal note, I can speak Hindi, have always loved India, have always loved Indian culture even though I have lived in the US for most of my life. I have always felt an attachment to India and its people, more so than Tibet because I have never been there, it is distant from me on a personal level.
India and Tibet has long shared cultural ties. Buddhism came from India, greatest Buddhist masters came from India, even the Tibetan language originates from India, so whether you dislike Tibetans or not, these things cannot be forgotten. Personally, I feel that your words are just a motivation or a fuel for those who dislike us and nothing more. Those who dislike us will find any cause, any reason to put us down.
Lastly, sometimes, I feel that Americans know more about Tibet and Tibetans than Indians even though Tibet is right up the alley. Thus, I think Tibetans need to reach out to Indians more create awareness, and not just live in their own nest holes. An example I can provide is that I had only a few Indian friends when I was in India, but have more here in the US from all over India, it's amazing that when you are away from home, you long for what you left behind.

Sorry if my post offends anybody, but the last thing I wanted to say was thank you India and its people for giving us a home, and remember we truly appreciate it.--Jai Hind

Anonymous said...

tibet n kashmir problems have a common root cause

The the most famous kashmiri pandit

Anonymous said...

Thank you, that was extremely valuable and interesting...I will be back again to read more on this topic.

(All photos by the author, except when credit mentioned otherwise)