Immolation attempt brings Tibetans together

New Delhi: The capital’s largest Tibetan settlement, Majnu Ka Tila, had an air of contained outrage Tuesday, a day after 26-year-old Jamphel Yeshi attempted self-immolation to protest Chinese Premier Hu Jintao’s visit for the BRICS summit.

The settlement, popularly called ‘MT’ by the Tibetan residents, had its usual bustle, with smartly dressed Tibetans rushing through the narrow lanes festooned with Tibetan prayer flags or hanging out at the area’s many cafes. But the chatter dwindled when Yeshi’s name was uttered.

Smiling, crinkled eyes turned hard with sadness and anger. Many people refused to talk about Monday’s incident but the anger at the immolation attempt was evident.

According to Tenzin Chokey, general secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress, while Yeshi was “still critical with 98 percent burns”, his self-immolation attempt Monday had drawn Tibetan exiles together.

“All over the world, Tibetan people are praying for him. While the doctors have hope, his situation is still critical,” said Chokey.

Police had cordoned off the area, preventing the protestors from going out.

According to police officials, the measures were to ensure that the summit Wednesday is incident-free. BRICS is a grouping of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“We had planned to give a memorandum to leaders at the summit. We will still try to communicate our message by making the memorandum public or by e-mail. We have also planned demonstrations at the UN office,” Chokey added.

Around 150,000 Tibetans live in exile the world over, of which around 100,000 are in India.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama himself has been based India ever since 1959 when he fled Chinese occupation of his homeland. He later made this Himalayan town home to the Tibetan government in exile.

Rinchen, a Tibetan monk from Dharamsala who was in Delhi to take part in Tibetan protests during Hu’s visit, said he had prayed for the youngster’s recovery.

“In the past year, more than 20 young Tibetan men and women burned themselves as an expression of the Tibetan anger to Chinese oppression,” he said.

“I wonder how long it will take for the world to see our plight,” he said in a grave voice.

At a nearby cafe, the anger was evident in the eyes of Tashi Dondhrup, who held China responsible for the incident.

“They (Chinese) are the ones who actually did this. Had they not occupied our home, so many Jamphels wouldn’t have to take such a drastic step,” he said

“I wish Indian politicians would present our case fearlessly when he (Hu) comes,” he added.

Dondhrup too has come from Dharamsala for the protest.

Ronnie, a 17-year-old Tibetan, said: “I have been told there will be a protest at the BRICS summit venue. Now police are stopping us from going out.

“But some of my friends are coming from Mussoorie and we will take part in the protest,” he added in a quieter voice.

Tenzin, 26, said: “It is sad to see so many young people my age take to this path. But I know why they do it. And for the sake of their sacrifice, we will keep fighting against oppression.

“Under the Chinese, there’s no freedom in Tibet. Let alone religious freedom, even basic things like movement are restricted. They can never let there be peace in Tibet,” she claimed.

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