By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, March 31: Fifty years ago on this day His Holiness the Dalai Lama safely made his entry into India following a dramatic escape two weeks ago from Norbulingka, his summer palace in Tibet near Lhasa.
The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa looks on as the Chief Guest Kishan Kapoor speaks at a “Thank You India” function in Dharamsala, India (Photo: Dhonyoe)
A massive uprising on March 10, 1959, by Tibetans against an already decade long Chinese presence in Tibet had failed after it was brutally crushed down. Prior to that, as a result of Chinese actions in Tibet, efforts by the Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama over the past years to ensure Tibetans and Chinese lived together peacefully on the basis of the Seventeen Point Agreement was already failing. As situation in Tibet was becoming increasingly serious, a week later on the night of Match 17, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee to a safety in southern Tibet.
Two days later on the night of March 19, Chinese troops resorted to extreme force. Within the next 24 hours, some twenty thousands Tibetans were killed, injured or imprisoned. With this the Dalai Lama’s final hope of establishing contacts with the Chinese authorities to calm situation in Tibet had fallen apart. Feeling helpless with the worsening situation, the Dalai Lama was left with no option but to escape into India.
That same year, as a result of Chinese military’s harsh and relentless repression of the Tibet people and the turmoil that spread throughout Tibet, about one hundred thousand Tibetans fled to seek refuge in India.
These are the Dalai Lama’s reflection in his “Thank You India Address
" today on the occasion of 50 years’ in exile.
“Finally, on 31st March, after many days of hardship, we safely reached India and the light of freedom,” the Dalai Lama recalls in the statement with mixed feeling.
While the memory of leaving ones homeland can be tragically painful, the exiled Tibetan leader says the experience also marked a “turning point in the history of Tibetan people”.
In India, Tibetans found a new haven to preserve their unique religion, culture and their identity that was endangered in their own homeland, the Tibetan leader noted.
In the statement, the Dalai Lama expressed his profound gratitude to the people and government of India for extending “moral and material generosity” to the Tibetan people in India during a critical period when, he said, the very identity and civilization of Tibet came under “severe threat of extinction.”
“Looking back over the past fifty years, we feel confident that we made the right choice when we sought refuge in India,” the Dalai Lama said in the statement.
“On behalf of all Tibetans, both those inside and those outside Tibet, I fervently wish to express our profound gratitude by saying ‘Thank You’ over and over again to you, the people and government of India,” the Dalai Lama, who is currently in the Indian capital of New Delhi to attend functions marking the occasion, said in the statement.
Official function was also organized in Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibet’s Government-in-exile in northern India, to mark the occasion.
The functions are part of a series of events being organized by Tibetan exiles to commemorate their 50 year’s in exile and to reaffirm commitment in their struggle for freedom.
In Dharamsala, the function showcasing Tibetan cultural songs and dances by school children was attended by senior officials from the Tibet’s government-in exile and representatives from the Indian community.
The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa made a special presence at the function, which was attended by hundreds of Tibetans, visiting tourists and school children, and presented souvenir to the Chief Guest of the event Mr Kishan Kapoor, transport minister, the Government of Himachal Pradesh.
Addressing the gathering, Minister Kapoor commended Tibetan people for effectively carrying out their freedom struggle.
“I want to commend Tibetan people around the world for making incredible efforts in preserving and promoting their unique cultural traditions and identity, and for effectively keeping alive Tibet’s freedom struggle,” Kapoor said.
Paying special tribute to those Tibetans who lost their lives in the aftermath of the last year’s Tibet unrest, Kapoor said they sacrificed their lives for the just cause of Tibet. “I am confident that with their supreme sacrifices, the day will not be far when truth and justice will prevail for Tibet,” he said.
Mr Kapoor in turn thanked His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan people for making unique contribution to the Himachal Pradesh state and, particularly, to Dharamsala with their message of peace.
He also applauded local Indians for maintaining peaceful co-existence with the Tibetan exiles, and asked both sides to further strengthen their harmonious relationship.