A file photo of Dhondup Phuntsok
DHARAMSHALA, April 8: A Tibetan youth in the Indian city of Kolkata jumped off the Howrah bridge into the river Ganges in an apparent protest against the continued Chinese occupation of Tibet.
Dhondup Phuntsok, 26, a Tibetan student at the Scottish Church College jumped off the bridge on April 2 wearing a ‘Free Tibet' t-shirt.
His body was fished out on Saturday evening near Baja-Kadamtala ghat and identified by his mother.
Days before his protest, Dhondup Phuntsok had sent an SMS to a Kolkata based Tibet activist Ruby Mukherjee hinting of a ‘free Tibet’ action in front of the Chinese consulate in the city.
“Ruby di, sorry I lied actually I want to do it myself and it is my personal decision whatsoever the consequences maybe tonight,” Dhondup Phuntsok texted Ruby of Ganasamnnay, an Indian organisation that works for Tibetan refugees.
“This is just me and myself. I will delete all the phone numbers from my cell so that no one gets disturbed if I am caught in this act…Free Tibet,” Dhondup Phuntsok wrote.
“I want to tell my people that writing free Tibet at the gate of the consulate is a better way to protest than self-immolating oneself,” Dhonduo Phuntsok further wrote.
Speaking to reporters, Ruby said she tried to stop Dhondup Phuntsok from “doing anything silly.”
“He was inspired by Jamphel Yeshi's self-immolation in New Delhi, and was eager to do something for Tibet,” Rubi said “I tried to stop him. I told him not to do anything silly."
Jamphel Yeshi, 27, had set his body on fire in the Indian capital New Delhi at a massive public rally demanding international intervention in the ongoing crisis inside Tibet on April 26.
A member of Tibetan Parliament Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok told Phayul that Dhondup Phuntsok was an active Tibetan college student, always longing to do something for Tibet.
“After speaking with Rubi yesterday, I realised that I have seen the Tibetan youth, Dhondup Phuntsok when I was in Kolkata in 2008 and we did some Tibet movement together. He was a member of around 18 Tibetan college students,” the Tibetan Parliamentarian said.
“Dhondup jumped off from the bridge and died for Tibet, not for himself, and of course, we will report this to Central Tibetan Administration,” Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok said.
“Today, Tibetans and Tibetan supporters in Kolkata will cremate Dhondup’s body after paying homage to the martyr,” the Tibetan parliamentarian informed.
Tenzin Tsundue, Tibetan activist and writer, recollected that Dhondup Phuntsok came across as “very spirited youth” willing to do “anything” for the Tibetan struggle.
"After 33 self-immolations, today we have a Tibetan martyr who drowned himself in the Ganga to highlight the suffering of Tibet under brutal Chinese occupation,” Tsundue, told Phayul.
“Dhondup used to call me to discuss how to spread the message of Free Tibet across India. I had never met him but he came across as a very spirited youth who was willing to do anything for the Tibetan struggle.”
Dhondup Phuntsok had lived most of his life in the Indian metropolitan city of Kolkota. His family had fled Tibet and settled down in a Tibetan refugee colony in Darjeeling before moving to Kolkata.