By Tenzin Dharpo
TCHRD Director Tsering Tsomo pointing to the large strips carved off from the areas that housed evicted Larung Gar students. Aug. 10, 2017. Phayul photo- Kusang Gashon
DHARAMSHALA, Aug. 10: The famed Tibetan monastic institute of Larung Gar in eastern Tibet that underwent demolition and eviction of its residents beginning last year is systematically being turned into a destination for tourists with supporting infrastructures built in and around the locale, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said earlier today.
The Dharamshala based organization cited information received from its undercover sources from Larung Gar who have gathered first hand witness accounts and taken photos and videos from as recent as last month exposing the large scale demolition and rebuilding of infrastructures such as stairways crisscrossing the area and large luxury hotels in the valley.
“Clearly the growing popularity and influence of Larung Gar as a spiritual oasis for Buddhist practitioners from all around the world was the overriding reason for the demolition, ”TCHRD’s Director Tsering Tsomo said, adding that the so called development projects resemble the previous large scale demolition back in 2001 in the same area.
Pictures taken in secrecy by sources show 10 large strips crisscrossing the valley in place of the houses of evicted students, where concrete stairs with metal railings are built for tourists to scale to the top of the valley. Also large stores and hotels are built in and around the valley to accommodate the previously unseen number of tourists. One grand luxury hotel with amenities from especially furnished rooms and wifi as well as smaller hotels and hostels have also been built beginning this year. The area bustling with construction works and continuous tourist inflow has little to show for what was once a thriving Buddhist learning centre, the rights group surmised.
New roads leading to the top of the valley have also been built making it more accessible for tourists to come in bus-loads to witness what the researchers call the “disneyfication of Jador (Sky Burial) sites”, a Tibetan traditional practice of feeding the carcass of humans to vultures as a form of offering. Chinese tour companies have turned the private moments of deceased Tibetans into insensitive “carnival style” entertainment for tourists.
As for the evicted residents which included more nuns than monks, resettlement and compensation measures have fallen short. Even the small number of residents who received compensation amounting to 30,000 Yuan, the sum was far lesser than the average cost of building a house amounting to 1,50,000 Yuan, an anonymous nun told TCHRD’s source. Evicted nuns have been relocated in newly built nunneries in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces, managed by the administrators of the Larung Gar Buddhist Association Institute.
Following the forceful eviction of students and demolition of Larung Gar since mid 2016, the once sprawling Buddhist learning centre boasting over 10,000 students as of May 2017 have been reduced by 4828 monks and nuns and 4725 houses flattened to the ground.