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His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrives back in McLeod Ganj, after attending events in New Delhi, April 28, 2017 Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
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Tibetans participate in a candlelight vigil following news of the self immolation protest by a 24 yr old Tibetan named Pema Gyaltsen in Nyarong, Kham, on March 18, 2017. McLeod Ganj, March 19, 2017 Phayul Photo:Kunsang Gashon
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A Response to Jamyang Norbu
[Tuesday, May 31, 2016 20:07]
By Tenzin Dolma

Entitled ‘The Clarity of Commitment’, Jamyang Norbu’s article on Phayul seems to have everything but clarity in the arguments and statements he carelessly throws around, and seems to get away with. He spends much of the first part of the article commentating on the recent Sikyong elections, and the bizarre aftermath of the whole debacle. Here he is clear and precise in his criticisms, and sheds light on the farcical nature of our supposed democratic elections, and that makes him a much needed voice of dissent to keep the community and the CTA in check. Had he maintained his integrity to the facts that bear out the claims he wishes to make there would have been no need for this one.

However he then goes on to discuss the self immolations that have occurred over the course of last year, notably of Dorjee Tsering, the young teenager in India who set himself alight and soon after perished, but not before expressing his reasons for carrying out the immolation. Jamyang Norbu quickly pounces on this teenagers’ words and misconstrues them to force his claim “If China’s occupation and repression in Tibet was the principal reason for this young man to set himself alight, then – in a real sense – the secondary cause was almost certainly the Tibetan government abandoning the struggle for Tibetan independence.”

He accuses the CTA of having marginalized the Rangzen activists to the point that teenagers like Dorjee have no choice but to resort to self immolation. He claims that if TYC was as vibrant as in it’s earlier years, such an act would not have happened. This is exactly an example of the kind of careless, almost thoughtless statements that he seems to get away with and it’s clear that you don’t have to sympathize with the CTA to see how nonsensical this statement is. What is to say that his immolation was not induced by the numerous others that have taken place in Tibet? What is to say that his immolation was not led to by the way in which we as a community seldom ponder upon the effectiveness of the immolations? Did Dorjee really know the impacts these immolations have had on the cause of the Tibetan people or was he driven by the way it was portrayed as being a “way” of doing something for the plight of the Tibetan people?

Moreover, he says “I have no doubt that besides Mrs. Clinton many others will not forget the misleadingly sweet face that masked the steely determination of this young man.” How can he be so sure that Dorjee’s act will be genuinely remembered by the world leaders? What can he tell us about the impact the hundreds of immolations in Tibet have had on the international action for the cause of Tibet and it’s people? He says that Dorjee’s hope of bringing attention to the Tibet issue might seem naive, yet to me it’s the baseless statements like above that are naive and startling. By saying such things can we not then claim that it’s exactly such careless statements heralding acts of self immolation without examining the actual impact it has on the Tibetan cause, that people like Jamyang Norbu are in a way responsible for inciting such thoughts in young minds like Dorjee’s? I know this is a farfetched claim, but to me it is as farfetched as is his accusation of the CTA’s role in Dorjee’s death. In fact, if you listen to Dorje Tsering’s statement while in the hospital, at around 1 minute 16 seconds into the video he says, “I didn’t do well in the tenth grade,...therefore, I realized if I am to do anything for Tibet the only thing I can do is to self-immolate.” This is conveniently missing from Jamyang Norbu’s translation of the possible reasons for his actions.

Indeed he says, “But blaming Dharamshala and Middle Way yahoos alone is perhaps unfair. All of us involved in the Tibetan struggle, even Rangzen activists – including myself, have to share some of the blame,” and he’s right, may be he is to blame but not for the reasons he gives but for his careless and baseless rhetorics. If he wants to hold the CTA responsible for its actions and statements, he needs to be subjected to the same degree of accountability for what he does and says. He is a respected person amongst much of the Tibetan community, particularly as an advocate for Rangzen activism. Which is why it is even more crucial that his words that reach thousands of people are critically read.

This article is purely aimed at highlighting the lack of criticality he displays in this recent article of his. It hopefully draws no conclusion about the role of the CTA in Dorjee’s death, nor purports any on Jamyang Norbu’s side, but simply points to the care that must be taken when making any claim of such magnitude.



The writer is a graduate in history from Delhi University, and currently studies finance at a community college.


The views expressed in this piece are that of the author and the publication of the piece on this website does not necessarily reflect their endorsement by the website.

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