Shortly after the Beijing Olympics, Tashi Lamsang and his friends were sitting in a Dharamsala café having one of the many lively and passionate discussions on the Tibetan struggle that were occurring in similar scattered groups all over town. While they were talking, Lamsang, who arrived from Tibet in 2003, imagined creating a public forum where Tibetans could share such ideas and opinions during this critical time.
“I wanted to bring people together to help to solve the Tibetan issue, to get to know one another better, and to create a greater sense of camaraderie among us.”
To this end, 26-year-old Lamsang and fellow activists created Talk Tibet, a series of weekly programs that provides an opportunity for all members of the community, regardless of status or position, to discuss important topics in an open and uninhibited manner.
Co-organizer Tenzin Losel feels that the programs serve an important function on an individual as well as community level. “It’s hard to hold all these things inside your heart. You feel a sense of relief when you are able to express them and be heard.”
He continues. “I used to attend many meetings and discussions, but even though I had a lot of ideas I didn’t have the confidence to raise even a single question. Now I feel completely fine speaking in public and I can share my own experience with all kinds of people, even those who hold a different opinion to my own.”
As Tenzin explains, Talk Tibet is not an NGO but is made up of a diverse group of individuals. The forum committee doesn’t take a stand on any particular ideology and does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed by its speakers. “We are simply a platform where people can freely share their views.”
One particular goal of Talk Tibet is to increase political and social awareness, particularly among Tibetan youth, and to promote personal responsibility and leadership. “We need to create strength from within the community,” says writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue. “Protest rallies alone are not enough. We need a strong intellectual movement.”
The discussions, held every other Saturday, have an informal flavor to them and yet operate within certain guidelines of behavior. Each session is led by a moderator to ensure that the exchange remains focused, balanced and courteous. The arts have also been incorporated into the Talk Tibet format, as an entertaining way to foster creative avenues of approach to the issues facing Tibetans. On alternate Saturdays, films that highlight freedom struggles around the world as well as those with parallels to the Tibetan issue are screened as springboards for dialogue.
Topics on the discussion agenda include strategies for activists, Tibet’s political future, the election of the next Tibetan prime minister, democratic awareness, and other issues. Talk Tibet is also planning a review meeting on November 23rd where a cross-section of attendees from the Special Meeting representing government, NGO’s and individuals, will share their ideas in an interactive exchange with the local community.
The organizers hope that people will replicate the Talk Tibet format in their own communities both in India and abroad. “You can host a Talk Tibet event in private homes, cafés, libraries or dharma centers”, says Lhakpa Kyizom. “You can start with your family and friends.” Kyizom especially hopes that more Tibetan women will take part to express their point of view. “This is for anyone who feels for Tibet, for justice, and for truth.”
Lamsang finds that the discussions inspire people to get more actively involved in the Tibetan struggle. “Even if you just come to observe, you will leave feeling more enthusiastic to work for the cause. “