New Delhi : The international community is setting a bad precedence by not backing Tibet’s non-violent struggle even when monks are self-immolating out of helplessness, says Tibetan leader Lobsang Sangay.
“If the Tibetan movement is not supported … there are many other struggles around the worldâ€¦ What will they think?” Sangay, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, asked.
Sangay, who was here on his way from Bodh Gaya in Bihar to Dharamsala, his base in Himachal Pradesh, himself gave the answer.
“They will say it’s not worth investing in non-violence and democracy,” he said. “They will say, ‘Look at the Tibetan cause, how many Tibetans are self-immolating non-violently and no one gives a damn’.”
If a group resorts to violence, the international community “rushes to intervene, (acknowledging) there’s a tragedy and pulls in money”, said Sangay, who was at Harvard University before being sworn in as the Dalai Lama’s political successor last year.
“But the damage is done. It’s too late. Rather, if you support a non-violent, democratic movement, like the Tibetan cause, it sets a moral example for others to follow.”
Since March last year, at least 15 Tibetans, mostly young monks, have set themselves ablaze calling out for Tibet’s freedom and return of the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959.
“The international community should respond by acknowledging that Tibet is in a tragic situation,” Sangay said, adding that self-immolations show vulnerability of the monastic community in the wake of the “crackdowns” on monks and “interference” in monasteries.
There’s a need for “a more preventive, more encouraging and inspiring measure” by the international community, the 48-year-old leader proposed.
Asked if Tibetans felt hurt by the lack of vocal support from Bhutan, the only Mahayana Buddhist country in the world, Sangay said: “We welcome whoever supports us, but we don’t complain when someone doesn’t.”
However, “for any country, it’s better to stand up for human rights than not to.
“Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere… What goes comes aroundâ€¦ That’s the battle we have to fight for the 21st century, for the whole world.”
Sangay, born to Tibetan refugees in Darjeeling in India, referred to South Africa and said: “We were all on the streets when they fought for democracy. The world rallied around and ended the apartheid regime.”
But 20 years later, “when visa is denied to the Dalai Lama to attend Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations, it’s really unfortunate”.
When that happens, he added, “it sends a message to the world, that you supported our (South African) cause but when it comes to us )the Tibetans), we don’t give a damnâ€¦ For us (South Africa), economics is more important than human rights.”
Will Tibet get genuine autonomy anytime soon?
Sangay replied: “One has to be hopeful of finding a solution soon, at the same time be prepared for long challenges ahead. We are for dialogue; we want to reach out to the Chinese government.”
Sangay said he was often asked if his hope was “rational and realistic”.
“I am not in a rational choice theory business. I am in an irrational choice theory business. The rational choice theory simply cannot apply in movements of struggle.
“More often than not, when a history is made, it’s often by irrational choice theory.”
There are several models of solution involving dialogue, international pressure and internal pressure, he said.
“So it could be anything in Tibet’s case. There’s an Arab Spring model, a Soviet Union model, the Berlin wall collapse, the East Timor model, the Good Friday model and so on.”