The demise of a government in exile
By Sherab Woeser
I remember that buoyant year of 2002. It wasn’t a long time ago by any means. I can tell just by looking – the young tree sapling that one chief guest of a function planted to celebrate your growth and long life still looks much the same.
But many things have transpired since then. Remember, all year long we celebrated you. You had turned 360 years then and we couldn’t hold our heads high enough in pride of being a humble part of the historical legacy that you gave us.
We are the same people who rejoiced in making you special logos of commemoration, we published numerous books, papers; we held seminars, conclaves; we even sang a special song for you. We loved you so much then, we still love you but time is an evil prankster.
Now you are dead. You have been retired to memory.
That glorious day at Tsug la Khang is still so vivid. The crowd was ecstatic and the banners were all so proud of you. I can still hear those innocent children singing not fully aware of the commotion and the excitement of hands clapping in enjoyment. The ink of those many grandiose speeches made for you must still be fresh on paper somewhere in a file in an office, which probably has a different name now.
It is improper for me to be saying this now, now that you no longer are, but I believe you had many more rewarding decades of life in you still left. The total respect that you commanded in the hearts of Tibetans, oppressed and free, reflected your potential to serve us better than any alien government or exile institution.
The deep-rooted love and emotional connect you enjoyed with us, your people, across the globe is a proof to the historic loyalty that we have for you, passed down through generations of Tibetans.
Under your name we entered into treaties with the Mongols to the east, the Gurkhas to the south and the British Empire to the west. The Great 13th Dalai Lama, as your head, declared Tibet’s independence in 1913 while the Great 14th Dalai Lama refuted the 17-point agreement under your banner.
But now you are dead. You have been retired to memory.
There have been sad accusations that you fail to represent the entire Tibetan people. It is true that your beginnings lay in a specific section of the society but doesn’t a mighty river rushing through meadows, plains and forests originate from a secluded valley? With the Dalai Lamas as your head, you governed us for centuries with love and affection, for, your power lay in conquering hearts. I am not saying that you were perfect but we could have improved and improvised as a government and people – together. And today, this loyalty finds resonance of far greater emotional magnitude and political significance, in the aspirations and sacrifices of our suffering brethrens from the furthest reaches of Kham and Amdo to the valleys of Central Tibet.
You also had to suffer the humiliation of being told that in principle you ceased to exist since direct elections of representatives to the cabinet and parliament began. What was a majority-backed process of reform and development that all governments in the world go through, in your case, it was used as a means to replace you. I don’t know in which hideous cave is it inscribed that you are not supposed to learn from your three and a half centuries of experience and be better equipped to look after your people. For, with a vibrant democracy backing your historical governance, you transformed to become the direct and legitimate representative of the Tibetan people.
But now you are dead and it seems that you were sacrificed on the altar of political miscalculations.
This 15th day of the holy month of Saka Dawa, I pray for you and all the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives to uphold your banner high and your name dignified.
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