By Tenzin Dharpo
Photo: Tenzin Phende
DHARAMSHALA, July 28: A niece of the philanthropist Tibetan lama who died a mysterious death last July has escaped to Dharamshala this past Sunday, ushering a renewed impetus into to the case of the Tibetan religious leader. Talking to reporters at a press conference held with conjunction with the Tibetan exile administration, Nyima Lhamo, 26, gave first hand testimony calling the death of her uncle a “murder through poisoning” and hoped for a probe to relinquish any doubt of foul-play by China.
Nyima who travelled to India via Nepal in the last two weeks in extreme conditions says her decision to come into exile is motivated by the will to speak out the truth of Tulku’s case and many like him who continue to suffer. “I am fully aware my speaking out on Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is risking the lives of my family and relatives at home (Tibet). My hope is that the Chinese allegation against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche be thoroughly investigated in accordance with Chinese and International law, and the Chinese authorities to reveal the true circumstances that led to the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche,” she said.
Lhamo recalled how her family’s repeated plea to visit Rinpoche days before his death was denied and that they were informed that he had perished in prison through a random phone call one day. In the aftermath of the news, around 300 people gathered at the Lithang County office and demanded that the dead body of Rinpoche be returned for final rites.
Standing in front of the Chaundong prison in Chengdu just over a year ago in July last year, Nyima recalled how the refusal by authorities to take away the body and even to see him a last time drove her to attempt suicide. “I attempted suicide by trying to hang myself with a scarf. However, I was stopped by the prison staff and finally gave access to see the dead body of Rinpoche,” she said while struggling to stop her tears. The 26 year old also said, “His lips had turned black and what others who were allowed to bath him told me, even his nails were darkened indicating he was poisoned to death.” Her subsequent protest led to her detention along with her mother for 18 days in Chengdu.
Following the death and un-ceremonial cremation of the religious leader’s body, Chinese authorities distributed pamphlets and announced in local television channels that the Tulku was a “fake lama” and a “terrorist”, his photos were outlawed and his followers disallowed to build a stupa in his memory, according to the aggrieved niece who kept referring to the slain leader as ‘Nye Achen’ (My Uncle -in Tibetan).
Tulku Tenzin Delek who was posthumously awarded the ‘Democracy Service Medal’ by National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in June, died in Chaundong prison in Chengdu on July 12, 2015 while serving the 13thyear of a life sentence accorded on charges of “causing explosion” and “inciting separatism”. His earlier charge for death was commuted to life sentence. Tulku’s advocacy to develop social, medical, educational and religious institutions for Tibetan nomads in eastern Tibet and his work for environmental conservation in the face of indiscriminate logging and mining projects had pegged him as a figure of resistance and Tibetan identity.