By Sherab Woeser
The casket carrying Jamphel Yeshi's body, draped with Tibetan National Flag, is placed in the courtyard of the Tsug-la Khang, Dharamshala at the state funeral on March 30, 2012. (Photo/Tenzin Drojee )
DHARAMSHALA, March 31: Dharamshala was tense with an overwhelming outpour of emotions yesterday as the casket, draped with the Tibetan National flag, carrying the body of Jamphel Yeshi entered the exile Tibetan headquarters.
The long convoy of cars and motor bikes decorated with flags, banners, and photos of Jamphel Yeshi engulfed in flames, slowly made its way past lines of aggrieved mourners to Tsug-la Khang, the main temple.
Thousands of Tibetans and supporters had gathered at the courtyard across the main gate of the Dalai Lama’s residence to pay last respects to Jamphel Yeshi at the state funeral.
As the casket was lowered on an elevated platform, a shower of khataks poured down, an offering usually reserved for high lamas.
Jamphel Yeshi, all of 27, had set himself on fire on March 26, at a mass protest rally in New Delhi demanding international intervention in the ongoing crisis in Tibet and protesting Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India.
Although suffering 98 per cent burn and given zero per cent chance to survive, Jamphel Yeshi’s heart continued to fight on for almost a gruelling two days. He was declared dead in the morning of March 28.
Jamphel Yeshi had escaped into exile in 2006 and studied in Dharamshala and New Delhi, where he had been staying for the past two years.
The exile Tibetan leadership was in full strength as the Supreme Justice Commissioners, Ministers, Parliamentarians, heads of NGOs, and the general public stood in a moment silence, praying for Jamphel Yeshi and all Tibetan martyrs.
Emotions heightened and anguish gave way to tears when an executive member of the Tibetan Youth Congress read out Jamphel Yeshi’s last hand written letter to fellow Tibetans, explaining his decision to torch his own body.
“What I want to convey here is the concern of the six million Tibetans,” Jamphel Yeshi wrote. “At a time when we are making our final move toward our goal – if you have money, it is the time to spend it; if you are educated it is the time to produce results; if you have control over your life, I think the day has come to sacrifice your life. The fact that Tibetan people are setting themselves on fire in this 21st century is to let the world know about their suffering, and to tell the world about the denial of basic human rights. If you have any empathy, stand up for the Tibetan people.”
Dhondup Lhadar, vice-president of TYC gave a moving account of Jamphel Yeshi’s life story and the last moments with his relatives and friends.
“Jamphel Yeshi’s sacrifice was an act of the highest order of service to one’s country and people. He knew exactly what he wanted to tell us Tibetans and the world that freedom is the basis of happiness for all living beings,” Lhadar said.
Thousands gather to pay final respects to Jamphel Yeshi. (Phayul photo/Tendar Tsering)
Minister for Religion and Culture and acting Kalon Tripa, Pema Chhinjor said he was moved beyond words to express his true feelings.
While encouraging Tibetans to organise activities to strive for the demands of those who have self-immolated, Kalon Chhinjor reiterated the Kashag’s appeal to Tibetans and Tibet supporters to organise their activities peacefully, in accordance with the laws of their country, and with dignity.
Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, Penpa Tsering categorically stated that Jamphel Yeshi’s sacrifice was an outright act of non-violence and blamed Chinese President Hu Jintao for the loss of two Tibetan lives, one in India and another in Tibet, during his short stay in India.
"Hu Jintao is responsible for two more lives since he came to India. The question is how many more Tibetans will have to die before the issue is resolved?"
The entire businesses in Dharamshala, Tibetan and India, shut down as the body of Jamphel Yeshi made its last journey to the cremation grounds.
Jamphel Yeshi was placed on the pyre, for final rest, amidst prayers and slogans calling him a martyr echoing the hills.
The flames from his body once again rose high.