By Claude Arpi
Relaxing on the way
As the Dalai Lama will soon be arriving in Tawang, I post two historical documents. One is the telegram sent by the Tibetan leader to the Indian Prime Minister from Lhuntse Dzong in Southern Tibet, where the Dalai Lama had just denounced the 17-Point Agreement
signed under duress in Beijing in May 1951.
The other one is Nehru's reply. It is accompanied by instructions to the Indian officials for escorting the Dalai Lama's party.Here is the translation of the Dalai Lama's message:
[to] Pt Jawaharlal Nehru
Prime Minister of India
Ever since Tibet went under the control of Red China and the Tibetan Government lost its powers in 1951, I, my Government officers and citizens have been trying to maintain peace in Tibet but the Chinese Government has been gradually subduing the Tibetan Government.
The Tibetans have great love for and faith in Buddhism and their religion is more precious to them than their lives. In order to root out Buddhism, the Chinese published some articles in the press against Lord Buddha’s teachings and circulated them widely. This has created unhappy atmosphere amongst the Tibetans and they have started disliking intensely the Chinese Administration.
On 10.3.1959, I, members of the Kashag and other high ranking officers were invited to the Chinese Army Headquarters in Lhasa ostensibly to attend a cultural show. The people of Lhasa came to me and requested me not to attend the function as they suspected foul play. They announced openly in the streets that they would not remain any longer under China and would become independent. After this a large armed party came to my residence to guard me.
The Government of Tibet have tried their best to maintain good relations with China but the Chinese have been trying to take away powers from the Tibetan Government and in some areas they are making preparations for war.
On 17.3.1959 at 4 p.m. the Chinese fired two shells in the direction of my residence. They could not do much damage. As our lives were in danger, I and some of my trusted [word missing] manage to escape the same evening at 10 p.m. and moving south to reach Lhuntse Dzong on 26.3.1959.
India and Tibet have had religious relations for thousand years and they are like brothers without any differences. Moreover Pt. Nehru as also the Indian people are known throughout the world for their support of humanitarian causes.
In this critical situation we are entering India via Tsona. I hope that you will please make necessary arrangements for us in the Indian territory.
Confident of your kindness and with good wishes,
Sg: Dalai Lama
26.3.1959.According to the report of the Political Officer in Bomdila:
On the 27th March, 1959, Shri T.S. Murthy, Assistant Political Officer, Tawang, received instructions about the possibility of the Dalai Lama seeking entry into India. He reached Chuthangmu to receive the party at 0900 hours on the 31st March, 1959.
The advance party of the Dalai Lama under a comparatively junior officer had already reached Chuthangmu on the 29th March. They stated that the main party consisting of the Dalai Lama, his family, ministers and tutors were expected to enter our territory at 1400 hours on the 31st March, that there was no sign of the Chinese pursuit and that the party was bringing a small number of porters and would be needing many more from our area.
At 1400 hours on the 31st March, the Dalai Lama and his party reached Kenze Mane [Khenzimane] which demarcates the frontier in Chuthangmu area. His Holiness was riding a yak and was received by the Assistant Political Officer, Tawang. They proceeded to the checkpost without halting at the frontier.
Dronyer Chhempu [Chenpo], Personal Assistant to the Dalai Lama met the Assistant Political Officer in the evening and it was agreed that all porters brought by the party from Tibet would be sent back and that porterage arrangements thereafter would be made by us. It was also agreed that all pistols and revolvers, except those in possession of the Dalai Lama, his family and ministers (excluding their servants), and all rifles would be handed over to us for safe custody and that these could be collected at the frontier by those members of the body guard who were to return to Tibet after escorting the Dalai Lama to the plains or that alternatively, we would keep that in our custody and obtain disposal orders from the Government. It was further decided that a list of all Tibetan officers and of entering our territory would be prepared and handed over to the Assistant Political Officer.Nehru answered the telegram from the Dalai Lama; a reply was sent through K. L. Mehta, Advisor to the Government of Assam on April 3, 1959.
I received Your Holiness' message dated the 26th March only yesterday on my return to Delhi. My colleagues and I welcome you and send you greetings on your safe arrival in India. We shall be happy to afford the necessary facilities for you, your family and entourage to reside in India. The people of India who hold you in great veneration will no doubt accord their traditional respect to your person.
Kind regards.[Jawaharlal Nehru]As part of the same telegram, the following instructions were issued by Subimal Dutt, Foreign Secretary to K.L. Mehta:
1- In transmitting the message, the officer concerned should also inform the Dalai Lama and his principal advisers that the Government of India are making the necessary arrangements for the Party's travel in India.
2- If the Dalai Lama wishes to halt at Bomdila or Tezpur for rest you should fall in with his wishes. We are sending P.N. Menon, formerly our Consul-General in Lhasa up to Bomdila within the next day or two. He will be in charge of the party during: their travel to destination in India. We have not yet decided where the Dalai Lama should reside but obviously Shillong, Kalimpong or Darjeeling is out of the question. We shall send you a further message about this at the earliest possible.
3- We hope you have made the necessary security arrangements. We propose sending a senior IB Officer from here. We shall also send one or two interpreters. Please let-us know if you want any other staff, which should be kept to the minimum.
4- No person, whether Indian or foreigner, should be given Inner Line permit to meet the Dalai Lama and his party. When the Dalai Lama reaches Assam, we cannot altogether prevent press correspondents from approaching him. P.N. Menon will be instructed how best to deal with them.
5- We are instructing P.N. Menon to inform the Dalai Lama orally that it would be best for him not to issue any long statements to the press here at this stage. The Dalai Lama will undoubtedly appreciate the inadvisability of saying anything which would cause embarrassment to him and to us. Similar advice will also be given to members of his party. Since no press correspondent can meet the Dalai Lama until he comes out of the NEFA area, it is not necessary to convey this advice immediately, even if it were possible to do so. We should like all our officers who will be with the Dalai Lama and his party to observe the utmost discretion in what they do or say to others.
6. [T.S.] Murti [Assistant Political Officer in Tawang] who is now in the Party should be with them until they reach their final destination in India. Instruct him accordingly.
The rest is history. On April 17, 1959, the Dalai Lama reached Tezpur from where he issued his famous statement
.Claude Arpi is an India - China defence analyst and a Tibetologist. He lives in Auroville, Puducherry.