News and Views on Tibet

Followers come out in support of Karmapa, refute allegations

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By Kalsang Rinchen

Dharamsala, January 31 – Thousands of Tibetan and foreign devotees including monks and nuns marched with candles Monday night from Norbulingka to Gyuto monastery near here to express their support and solidarity with the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, who is being questioned by the Indian police in connection with alleged breach of India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act.

Supporters say that they are deeply disturbed by the “unfounded” allegations against their religious leader by sections of Indian media linking him with China. “Yesterday only, Indian home minister P. Chidambaram clearly said no conclusions have been drawn from the probe as yet. I had read news reports that cited unnamed and anonymous officials from the Indian government and intelligence officials linking Karmapa to China. Who are they? Why don’t those reports name them? I don’t think an intelligence officer would divulge information to media just like that, or if a government source said it then why did the home minister say no conclusion has been drawn as yet,” asked Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan writer and activist who participated in the vigil which he called “a religious procession in support of the Karmapa by Tibetan people.”

Like many other Tibetans, Tsundue is worried that such “speculative news” being churned out is causing an unnecessary dent in the relationship between the ordinary Indians and Tibetan refugees, who have lived in the country for over 50 years. “We know that the Karmapa is not a Chinese spy, and I want to tell the government and people of India that the Tibetans have always remained and will remain ever grateful to India and its people. Karmapa is a very important religious figure in Buddhsim, and not a Chinese spy and he had cut off all ties with China the moment he escaped to India in January 2000,” said Tsundue.

Another media speculation, supporters say, was that the Karmapa had been sent by China to build China friendly network of monasteries along the Himalayan border. “Karmapa himself has been living as a tenant without his own monastery since his escape. How could someone without a monastery here in Dharamsala of his own build a network of monasteries elsewhere? Since his arrival in India, Karmapa has been under constant watch of Indian security agencies and the local police from whom foreign devotees or even journalists are required to seek permission to even meet him. These are ridiculous speculations,” said Tsering Dorjee, a Tibetan college student.

At least 2000 people yesterday created a sea of walking candlelights last night saying prayers and chanting slogans in support of the young head of the influential Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Devotees say that the media speculation against their religious leader being a Chinese spy is ridiculous, and called it “sensationalism” and hunger for TRP (Television Rating Point).

Refuting allegations of the Karmapa being a “Chinese spy” as speculated, supporters chanted in unison, “he is not, he is not,” as they walked towards the temporary residence of the Karmapa at Gyuto monastery on Monday.

Indian investigating agencies have denied reports that the Karmapa is under house arrest. “We have full respect for the spiritual head. He is free to meet the devotees and perform religious duties. There is no restriction on his movements within permissible limits,” Additional Director General of Police S.R. Mardi was quoted as saying by IANS.

Most Tibetan exiles settled in McLeodganj have boycotted news channels, saying “they are hurting our sentiments”. “We have stopped watching the news channels as they are wrongly projecting our spiritual guru. It seems they (the channels) are working under the guise of some foreign agencies,” Lhasang Yeshi, a shopkeeper at McLeodganj, told IANS

Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA), the Gu Chu Sum Movement of Tibet, the National Democratic Party of Tibet, and the Students for a Free Tibet also carried out a procession Sunday evening. Another solidarity march to the residence of Karmapa is planned for Wednesday, and is expected to be participated by followers and devotees from Bir, Chauntra, Dharamsala, Manali and Delhi.

The speculation of Karmapa’s reported link with China stems from reported seizure of Chinese currency amounting to about 700000 Yuan. Tibetans say that the Karmapa has millions of followers in many western and Southeast Asian countries including China, and that Chinese currency seizure is not surprising. “Devotees of Karmapa present money as offering for prayers and donations for the monastery, and monk’s education. Thousands of devotees including those from China and Tibet offer money to the monastery. Most monasteries run on offerings and donations from devotees and sponsors. Mere possession of Chinese currency is not a valid ground for suspicion of someone being a Chinese spy,” said Dhondup Dorjee, a local Tibetan businessman who has been closely following the news lately.

China on Monday denied any links with Karmapa saying the 24 year old Tibetan lama is not their spy. Many say that China’s recognition of Ogyen Trinley Dorjee as the 17th Karmapa has led to the suspicion surrounding the Karmapa. China traditionally had no say in either recognizing or approving a Tibetan religious figure. Ogyen Trinley is touted by media as the only Tibetan Buddhist leader having recognition of both the Dalai Lama and China. “Even if China had not recognized the Karmapa he still is the Karmapa for us,” said Choenyi Dolma, a Tibetan nun carrying a portrait of the Karmapa among the marchers.

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