By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, June 21: A play based on the plight of Tibetan refugees in Nepal and India has reportedly been shut on June 11, after pressure from Nepalese Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). The intervention comes a week before the Nepalese Prime Minister KP Oli’s scheduled visit to China.
The play was running at Shilpee Theatre in Kathmandu from May 31 and was slated to go on till June 14.
The director of the play Loonibha Tuladhar told The Record that she had received a call from MoFA warning her for running the play that was suggested to be against Nepal’s recognition of the ‘one China policy’. Artistic director of Shilpee Theatre, Ghimire Yubaraj who initially took a defiant stand against the warnings later had to reconsider with the safety of her crew and the future of the theatre in mind.
The play ‘Kora’ based on four poems of Tibetan poet and activist Tenzin Tsundue -Horizon, Refugee, The Tibetan in Mumbai and Exile House- exudes the common theme of being lost, displaced and longing for home from the perspective of a Tibetan refugee. Tsundue told Phayul, “I am flattered that the biggest military power in the world- China feels insecure by my writings and therefore had to arm - twist our sister country Nepal to shut down the play KORA, directed and produced by Loonibha.”
The assistant spokesperson for MoFA Ram Babu Dhakal’s denial to issuing threats does not come across as either reassuring or serving as a resolute statement from the government, with the Nepalese government’s drastic shift in treating the Tibetan refugees in the country in the last decade or the motive behind that, apparent to all.
Nepal is known to have cracked down on the small Tibetan refugee community time and again on Beijing’s behest as well as deporting and imprisoning refugees that cross over to Nepal on their passage to India despite International outcry.
Chinese government’s direct censure or self censorship by countries, in many fields including arts is a recurring subject. In April, London based Royal Court Theatre shelved a play on the same theme of Tibetan refugees after advice from the UK government’s cultural diplomacy arm, British Council which cited possible fallout of a joint arts programme with China and the play coinciding with “significant political meetings”.
Tibetan poet Tsundue however, opined that such patterns are chronic in nature in that, “totalitarian regimes are always threatened by arts as it questions their authority. Art disarms dictators by thrashing their manufactured single narratives and offer pluralism.”