Mr Vijay Kranti is a prominent journalist and a long-time friend of Tibet. He is the first ever Indian journalist who traveled inside China controlled Tibet for eight days as an ordinary tourist without Beijing's patronization or direct control. He is also the editor of Tibbat Desh, a bi-monthly magazine in Hindi.
Phayul - What is it that drew your attention towards the Tibet cause and the Tibetan community in general?
VK - In one way it all started with a journalistic assignment from a popular Hindi weekly in 1972. That made me read HH Dalai Lama’s autobiography and meet many young Tibetan leaders. My interview with His Holiness was a unique experience. I was strongly moved by his personality, his warmth and his struggle. That made me stick to the subject and the people. But I think the real thing had started when I was a student of 2nd or 3rd standard. We had some lessons on “our neighbour countries” which had a full chapter on Tibet. The idea of the country being ruled by a child king and people greeting each other with a stretched out tongue fascinated me so much that Tibet remained engraved on the back of my mind permanently. Yet another reason could be that I too was born to a refugee couple who had been pushed out of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir because of India’s partition.
Phayul - What difference do you see between the Tibetan community then and now?
VK – So many differences, and hardly any difference. The community looks more confident and economically self reliant than what it was in 1972. The accompanying changes in general mannerism, consumption habits and openness towards other communities is far different now. But the fire of being refugee and victims of a power like China gets its expression in a more refined, specific and subtle way. The most impressing are the younger boys and girls. Their commitment towards Tibet is very predominant and moving.
Phayul - Do you believe the Autonomy is a step down from Rangzen? Why?
VK - I think its is more than just being down. It has left the community confused and friends demoralised. I very much respect the right of the govt-in-exile to probe all significant ways of finding a solution to the Tibetan problem. And Autonomy, surely, can be one of the options. But my main objection is that Chinese are not the suitable government for this kind of a dialogue. In history they have never demonstrated sincerity in negotiated settlements, not even elementary faith in genuineness. They can commit something today and, if it suits them, forget it tomorrow – or even come out with an altogether upside down interpretations. Moreover, China’s colonial masters of Tibet have already given ‘autonomy’ twice to Tibet. First time in the so called “17-pt Agreement” and second time when they reorganised Tibet and gave the name of “Tibet Autonomous Region” to a part of real Tibet. I am not sure how useful it is to negotiate for a third ‘Autonomy” with such an unreliable adver sary?
Phayul - What role can India play in the fulfilment of the Tibetan goal of autonomy?
VK - Are you sure that ‘autonomy’ can he the ‘goal’ for Tibet? Unfortunately, Indian government has yet to formulate a self respecting policy for India vis-à-vis China. It will be hazardous to rely on a government for playing a role in finding solution to Tibet problem when it can not protect its own genuine rights from China.
Phayul - Do you see any positive outcome of the recent visits of the Tibetan delegation to China?
VK - Since both sides have not publicly presented their actual policy on and experience of dialogue it will be hazardous to make guesses. But what I can say confidently on this matter is that Chinese government has, so far, not expressed an iota of faith or interest in finding a reasonable solution to Tibetan problem. Frankly speaking, I see no reason not to believe that Chinese government is only buying time on Tibet. Once the railway line to Tibet start functioning and once they have won all the dollars and international credibility from forthcoming Beijing Olympics, they will not need any Beijing-Dharamsala solution to Tibet. By that time they would have solved the Tibetan ‘problem’ in the same way as they solved the ‘Manchurian’ and other 55-problems by reducing all other nationalities into meaningless minorities.
Phayul - For more than thirty years, you have been associated with the Tibetan cause, what is it that you would wish you could have done in the thirty years that you have not been able to do?
VK – I think I am quite happy with what I could do on Tibet in past three decades. I can die tomorrow without any regrets. Within given limitation of time and resources in my situation I have done good enough – even if not the best possible. However, I wish I had not consistently postponed learning Tibetan language. I think it is still not too late.
Phayul - As a journalist what was your biggest contribution to the Tibetan cause?
VK – I would leave this judgement to others. But the one thing I am happy about is that I have been able to understand Tibetan issue from the right Tibetan and Indian perspective. Moreover, I am sure that I am going to make my ‘best’ contribution in future.
Phayul - You have visited Tibet last year, and you have documented a lot of pictures of your secret trip, in a sense that your wife knew of your first visit only after you came back. What are the differences in the attitude of the Tibetans on the two sides, there and here?
VK – Yes, my two trips to Tibet were for photography. But my visits were not ‘secret’. They were undertaken in the most legal and genuine possible way as suitable to a photographer and journalist in the given conditions. I did keep my first visit as a ‘secret’ from my wife and family members because I was more afraid of their love and concern for my safety than I would ever be afraid of any threat from the Chinese government side. A major concern of the Tibetans inside Tibet is to manage their lives within the limits of Chinese colonial domination. They have hardly many options. On the other hand Tibetans outside have many options, including the one to commit mistakes and lose focus on their national struggle. But its quite assuring that changing socio-economic situations have not sucked-in the exiled community members to the extent that they forget their national identity or their role in the struggle. But I must say that on many accounts the Tibetans living inside occupied Tibet are quite brave and sturdy people.
Phayul - With the bilateral relations between New Delhi and Beijing gradually moving towards a more pleasant note, what do you see are the chances of Tibet being listed on their agenda?
VK – The Chinese agenda is very clear – to make the best for its economic and political national interests. I wish the Indian leaders and bureaucrats could be as focused as the Chinese. I doubt, Indian government will have many reasons in near future to assert its national interests vis-à-vis Tibet.
Phayul - What will be your one-liner to the Tibetans?
VK — Don’t lose the hope and remain prepared for the great opportunity that history can throw on you, such things happen suddenly – and they do happen.
Phayul - What do you think about the Tibetan youth of today?
VK – In no way they are less committed or inferior to their previous generations. Rather they have all the desire, and better equipments, to make a significant contribution to Tibet.
Phayul - What advice can you give to these young minds?
VK – I have all faith in their wisdom, commitment and capabilities. Still, I would like to remind them that their social organisation and social discipline is their major strength. While keeping enough space for difference in opinions, they MUST maintain their social unity and discipline.
Phayul - Could you tell us about the photo-festival that you are presenting on Tibet in Delhi?
VK – Although I have already presented more than 10 photo-exhibitions on this subject, yet this will be a unique event. While an ordinary exhibition has 40-50 prints, this will have 200 and odd. Its title is “BUDDHA’s HOME COMING” because it showcases the impact of Dalai Lama’s presence in India – both on Tibetan national identity as well as on the Indian Himalayan Communities. Having studied the Tibetan exile community and the Indian Himalayan communities as a photographer, I am convinced that HH Dalai Lama’s presence in India is just like Lord Buddha returning to his home land after two and a half thousand years. This show is a testimony to the fact that this handful community has converted India into the largest reservoir of authentic Tibetan culture in the world. Its more artistic than documentative. It presents many colours of Tibetan life and culture in exile. In short, this photo-festival is an Indian photographer’s tribute to the Tibetan exile community, its leader H H the Dalai Lama – and, of course to their host – the people and the Government of India.