Dharamsala: It will be a muted Tibetan New Year or Losar in Dharamsalaâ€™s suburb of Mcleodganj this year as the community expresses solidarity with those suffering under Chinese rule in Tibet.
The Tibetan parliament-in-exile, based in McLeodganj, has urged Tibetans living in exile in India to shun the celebrations this year.
â€˜We are expressing solidarity with the sufferings of the people inside Tibet by not celebrating Losar. Of late, the clampdown by Chinese security forces in the Tibet Autonomous Region has increased, resulting in several deaths,â€™ Parliament Speaker Penpa Tsering said on Saturday.
â€˜Members of the Tibetan parliament, Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and others will observe a daylong fast here on Feb 22 (New Year Day) to express solidarity with people in Tibet,â€™ Tsering said.
The CTA said over 20 people have set themselves on fire in Tibet since last March in protest against Chinaâ€™s policies, while calling for Tibetâ€™s freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama to his homeland.
Tibetan prime minister Lobsang Sangay, who is currently abroad, has said: â€˜Because of the (recent) gruesome acts and the systematic repression, the resentment and anger among Tibetans against the Chinese government has only grown since the massive uprising of 2008.â€™
‘Even as the Han Chinese were celebrating the first couple of days of â€˜the Year of the Dragonâ€™ Jan 23-24, police fired indiscriminately on hundreds of Tibetans who had gathered peacefully to claim their basic rights. Six Tibetans were reportedly killed and around 60 injured,’ he added.
According to the Tibetan lunar calendar, Losar is the first day of the year and traditionally celebrated by Tibetans in a big way.
The three-day festival marks sacred and secular practices like prayers, ceremonies, rituals and folk dancing and merrymaking.
But this year, an eerie silence is prevailing over the entire locality of McLeodganj, known for brisk sale of Tibetan artefacts and traditional recipes like Tibetan dumplings, ahead of the Losar festival.
â€˜Our brethren (in Tibet) have been undergoing untold suffering. Every day, we are getting horrid news. So how we can have the usual celebrations and gaiety?â€™ shopkeeper Sonam Dolkar asked.
The streets of McLeodganj have been lined up with banners and posters depicting photographs of those who have sacrificed their lives in Tibet.
â€˜These are heroes who have shown indomitable courage and sincerity in standing up to the situation,â€™ Tenzin Choewang, a member of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the largest pro-independence group in exile, said while pointing towards the photographs.
The TYC has chalked out a series of activities, including candlelight protests and prayer sessions, across Tibetan settlements in India and the world to mark the festival. Its planned activities also include a Chinese flag burning protest.
But Parliament Speaker Tsering objected to the burning of the Chinese flag, saying it can hurt the sentiments of the Chinese people.
â€˜We are against Chinaâ€™s leaders, not its people. The red flag is a symbol of China. We have to respect it at all costs,â€™ he said.
He asked Tibetan NGOs to organise campaigns by not violating the law.
Over 100,000 Tibetans are settled in India.