NJ Thakuria from Guwahati
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is worldwide considered as the messenger of peace. His spiritual discourses all over the world are received with a great reverence. His preaching having strong roots in Bharatiya tradition are well appreciated in Bharat. Now he is visiting the difficult terrain of North-east where he is received with warm welcome. And as usual his message is of peace and compassion. Speaking in front of ten thousand people here at Buddha stadium he spoke about the benefits of positivity that could attract friends, family and people nearer. His appreciation of India’s secular social structure that had let all religions to flourish side by side is the real meaning of this visit and not the politics as China wants to project.
The pre historic city of Guwahati witnessed a rare moment of emotion when the Nobel peace laureate His Holiness the Dalai Lama embraced an Assamese national at a recent function. The seventy plus gentleman was Naren Das, who was one of the five Indian Army personnel to escort the Tibetan spiritual leader on the border after his flight in March 1959 from Lhasa, the then capital of Tibet.
The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso hugged the retired Assam Rifles guard Naren Das, the lone survivor of the escorting team and saluted him to speak the word thanks with tears in eyes. Both of them for a moment turned into two friends of earlier years meeting for the firsttime after 58 years. The crowded auditorium responded with continuous clapping to show their affection towards the Tibetan monk, a legend of our time.
A resident of Balipara locality in Tezpur, Das retired from his service in 1982. But on the auspicious day he was with old uniform. Looking at Das, who was around 20 then and the Dalai Lama around 23 years old when they first met at Indo-Tibetan border, His Holiness commented with humour, “Looking at you, I feel now I have also grown very old.”
Defying China’s relentless opposition, the Dalai Lama arrived in Guwahati to grace a number of functions in Assam. Including a public function at Gauhati University, where an Assamese translation of his
autobiography ‘My Land and My People’ (Mor Desh Aru Mor Manuh) was also released in presence of Assam Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. He also joined the Namami Brahmaputra festival, which was
inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee on the bank of Brahmaputra which originates in Tibet. He visited Dibrugarh University in eastern Assam to address a select gathering, where he emphasized on internal peace for every individual.
In various interactions in Assam, the Dalai Lama preached Ahimsa (non-violence) with Karuna (compassion). He also termed himself as a longest tenure guest of India. He remembered those days, when the Hun Chinese invaded Tibet and he had to escape from Lhasa. He revealed that now he becomes a messenger of Indian culture to the world like a true son of the great country.
His visit to Arunachal Pradesh was to be rescheduled, but not for the Chinese threat. The Dalai Lama was initially scheduled to fly to Tawang on April 4, but the inclement weather compelled him to take the land route. His first stoppage was in Bomdila of Arunachal’s West Kameng district. Next day, he climbed up to Dirang on way to Tawang, a Buddhist concentrated locality of Arunachal, around 400 km southeast of Lhasa.
Prior to his visit to Tawang, a region the China government in Beijing claims to be their locality, various Chinese agencies including the government-controlled media outlets opposed the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal. They argued that the Dalai Lama’s visit to the disputed locality would seriously damage the bilateral ties between India and China.
Showing on time loyalty to Beijing administration the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent), which has been waging a war for decades against New Delhi for an independent Assam (Swadhin Asom), also discouraged the Dalai Lama’s visit to the region.
Even showing audacity to the spiritual leader, the armed outfit warned him not to utter a single word against Beijing from the soil of Assam because ‘China has always been a friendly neighbour to Assam and the relationship between China and Assam is truly very deep in linguistic and cultural heritage of the two nations’.
In a formal letter, addressing the religious leader, the self styled chairman of Ulfa (Independent) Dr Abhizeet Asom argued that the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang would disturb peace in Assam as the Chinese government was opposing any high profile individual’s visit to Arunachal terming it a part of South Tibet.
The militant leader, whom the National Investigation Agency (of India) suspects to be based in London with a different name of Dr Mukul Hazarika, wrongly pointed out that during 1962 Indo-China war, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) personnel ‘did not set foot on Assam soil’, but in reality the Chinese soldiers crossed Arunachal Pradesh and arrived at Tezpur until the Beijing administration received warning from the American authority.
Abhizeet Asom, who was picked up by Paresh Barua-now reportedly a tenant of Ruili town in southern Chinese province of Yunnan, also criticised the Indian nationals who extended moral supports for a Free Tibet and raised voices against the Tibetan government-in-exile along with the Dalai Lama. Citing that the former Indian Prime Minister AB Vajpayee accepted Tibet as an integral part of China, the militant leader also argued that India’s first Premier Jawaharlal Nehru also officially recognised Tibet as a China’s region.
His Holiness, who earlier accepted that Tibet is an autonomous region of China, recently commented that Tawang belongs to India and that way he supported New Delhi’s occupation over Nan Zhang. However, on the ground the separatist militants’ reaction was endorsed by nobody with the allegation that the Ulfa (I) had slowly turned into a puppet to Red China for their shelter in south China-Myanmar border areas. China turns out to be the last refugee for Paresh Barua, who faces a death penalty in Bangladesh, after his ouster from Bhutan and also resistant to the newly-formed quasi-democratic government in NayPieTaw.
But contrary to the diktat of Ulfa (I), the Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) welcomed the Dalai Lama to the North-east and it clarified that Tibet, not China, is the actual northern neighbour of the region. So the civil society group expressed hope that His Holiness’s visit would strengthen the bond between the people of Tibet and the north-eastern region of India. The PPFA also criticised the Red China for using the Ulfa (I) card against
The Indian External Affairs ministry, in a strong statement, commented that ‘no artificial controversy should be created around religious leader Dalai Lama”s visit to Arunachal Pradesh’. The Union government has clearly stated on several occasions that the Dalai Lama is a revered religious leader, who is deeply respected by the Indian people. Hence no additional colour should be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and visits to various states of the country, said a ministry statement. Earlier the Union minister Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh commented that the Dalai Lama’s visit came about because of the Arunachal peoples’ long- standing demand. The young minister clarified that his visit to the Tibet bordering Indian State was completely religious and no political angle behind his visit should be ascribed.
“Arunachal is an inseparable part of India and China should not object to His Holiness’s visit to the State. It’s an India’s internal affairs,” said Rijiju, who practices Buddhism and strongly commented that New Delhi had never interfered in China’s internal affairs and it expected Communist China also to reciprocate.
As the international media focussed on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal, the Chinese foreign
ministry in Beijing came out with the statement that hosting the Tibetan leader ‘on a contested stretch of land on the India-China border’ New Delhi has caused a serious damage to the relations between the two neighboring countries.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying commented that Beijing firmly opposed the visit by a man (the Dalai Lama) whom the Chinese government labels ‘a dangerous separatist’ to the disputed border region and New Delhi would benefit nothing out of it. Rejecting the arguments that the Dalai Lama’s trip was solely religious in nature, Chunying informed Beijing would lodge a formal protest with New Delhi in this regard.
However, the Dalai Lama clarified during a media interaction at Bomdila that New Delhi had never used him against Beijing. India is a land peace, harmony, non-violence with secular ethos, he disclosed.
The spiritual leader also urged the Chinese government to offer the Tibetans a genuine autonomy and meaningful self-rule (if not independence). Meanwhile, welcoming the Dalai Lama to his State, the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu asked China not to advise India ‘what to do and what not to do with Hi Holiness’s movement inside the country’. He even asserted that China is not Arunachal’s next-door neighbour (but Tibet). The McMahon Line demarcates the boundary between India and Tibet, the young chief minister claimed.
The Dalai Lama had earlier visited Arunachal Pradesh in 1983, 1997, 2003 and 2009. Every time China reacted sharply which was responded by New Delhi in a softer words. But with a new regime in New Delhi under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the situation turned different and it remains harsher to Beijing.
In fact, it started with the swearing-in ceremony of the NDA regime in 2014, when PM Modi preferred to invite the Tibetan government-in-exile head Lobsang Sangay along with all neighboring country leaders in power (avoiding the Red China). Lately President Mukherjee also hosted the Dalai Lama at his official residence in the national capital, which was the first meeting of the Tibetan leader with an Indian head in the last six decades.