Opinion: Did I cheat my father to love Tibet?

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Veteran Indian journalist and friend of Tibet Vijay Kranti (Photo-TYC)
Veteran Indian journalist and friend of Tibet Vijay Kranti (Photo-TYC)

By Vijay Kranti

(On his first anniversary on 16th June, a tribute to my father who fought all his life for his motherland like Tibetans)

During my 48-year long love affair with Tibet, many Tibetan and other friends have asked me the same question, “What made you fall in love with Tibet?” Their question is quite valid because as journalists we regularly come across so many issues. We go deep into one, write about it and then move ahead to something else. As we move on, most of us forget most of these issues with passage of time.  Moreover, in a country like India where every journalist and photographer has a huge variety of social, political and developmental issues worth specializing and writing about, how a journalist like me could continue with Tibet while many of my colleagues sincerely believed that it was a ‘dead’ or a non-issue?

When I look back and revisit my first encounter as a journalist with Tibetan refugee community and their leader HH the Dalai Lama in 1972, I discover that the reason of this love affair was my father and my mother. Meeting first time with the energetic refugee youths like Lodi Gyari, Jamyang Norbu, Tenzin Geyche, Lhasang Tsering, Tendzin Choegyal , and Sonam Topgyal, the fire in their belly for Tibet was very much same as I’ve been noticing since my childhood days in my father for his lost homeland in Kashmir.

My parents too were refugees from that region of Kashmir which was occupied by Pakistan only three months after the Indian Partition. When I met a middle aged Tibetan lady Tsering Kiya in McLeod Ganj Chowk, her enthusiasm about narrating her home place back in Tibet was as infectious as my mother telling me about her home in Mirpur, her school and life in the town.  May be this Tibetan encounter was a case of self identification. And I was hooked.

 

HE BECAME REFUGEE THREE TIMES

My father became refugee three times in his life time.  He was just two years old in 1931 when followers of young Sheikh Abdullah, a fanatic leader of Muslim Conference led a dreadful communal massacre as part of his anti-Maharaja movement in J&K. All property of my grandfather who was a prosperous businessman, an accomplished Hakim (Amchi), a famous story-teller and a popular preacher of Quran (despite being a Hindu), was looted and burnt. He was forced to leave his ancestral village of Panjan and migrated to Mirpur.

The family became refugee and lost its entire belongings second time in 1947 when they were forced to leave Mirpur overnight in the wake of attack by Pakistan Army and tribesmen. The surviving members of his family were among those 18 thousand out of 42 thousand Hindus and Sikhs of Mirpur who survived the violence. The family settled temporarily in Jammu city but was soon pushed out by the state government of Sheikh Abdullah to neighboring Punjab on the ground that it did not want to handle too many refugees. That was his third and final exile from his homeland. Following a long exploration in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh the family split in many parts and my father finally settled in a refugee slum of Delhi. I was born in this slum near Old Subzi Mandi.

 

FACELESS, HOPELESS REFUGEES

But as the luck would have it, a large majority of refugees from POK who migrated to other parts of India were deprived of their identity and status as ‘citizens of J&K’. While all State governments of J&K have refused to accept these POK refugees as ‘State Subjects’ of J&K for over 72 years now, the New Delhi government had her own reasons to deprive this community even the status of a ‘refugee’. For over seven decades the central government was shy of accepting these children of POK as refugees for the fear that this formal labeling will weaken her claims over POK in any future legal fight with Pakistan. This approach of he Centre, unlike victims of Indian partition from Pakistani Punjab, Multan, Sindh and East Pakistan who were compensated for the properties they had lost in Pakistan, automatically deprived my father, his parents and the entire POK refugee community of being compensated for the properties they had left behind in their homeland.  Till last days of his life when he passed away last year in June, my father had written innumerable petitions, participated in demonstrations and lead delegations to win justice and formal identity as the children of J&K. But to no avail.

He lived all his life with his pain of being denied even the right to call himself a legitimate son of his own motherland. Leave aside having any legal right to send his children to settle permanently in J&K as proud ‘citizens’ of their ancestral homeland,  he could not  even win a chance to send any of his children for higher education in an Engineering college of the State which were reserved exclusively for ‘State Subjects’ of J&K and are actually funded by the tax money he and other Indians were paying.

 

LIVING LIFE WITH A HOPE

In his last few months, my father had lost his eye sight. His only interest in sitting near the TV or radio was to hear some news about his homeland Jammu & Kashmir. He had big hopes from the Narendra Modi government in its first five years. But had started losing heart gradually. In his last days the only words he could speak after big efforts was his only one question, “Modi Kuj Karega?”  (Will Modi do something?). All of us knew what ‘something’ he was looking forward to. This ‘something’ did happen but only on 5th Aug 2020 which came 50 days after he had already breathed his last. On 24th May this year when my mother heard Modi government’s announcement about the new domicile citizenship laws for J&K her quick reaction was, “He was waiting all his life to hear this news. Had he been alive today, he would have died of his happiness shock.”

My father lived for 90 years and struggled for 72 years to win the Kashmiri identity for himself, his children and over a million other faceless Kashmiris like us who left their homes in Mirpur, Muzaffrabad, Bhimbhar, Kotly, Dev Batala, Kainy, Ali Beg and thousands of small villages like Panjan . Most of co-refugees of my father’s generation are already dead without seeing the dawn of 24th May this year or hearing the news that their home State of J&K has finally recognized them as her own children. Me and my children’s generations who have never had a firsthand feel of what it feels like being a citizen of our own motherland J&K, can now hope to win back our original identity. But the dream of my father’s generation to bring back our original ancestral homeland in POK is still far away. Still, many among us are now more hopeful that this Modi or the next one might bring back the lost POK back to its mother J&K one day.

There were many occasions when after reading my newspaper articles on Tibet, watching me in a TV debate on Tibet  or hearing about my speaking in a seminar about Tibet, he would quietly hold my hand and ask me, “You are working so much for the Tibetans who are from another country. Why don’t you fight with the same spirit for your own people?” I could feel his pain but I had no such answer which could reassure him about his painful situation. On some occasions I could just muster some courage to tell him, “Don’t you think we are still very lucky that despite losing our homeland we are living in our own motherland as free citizens? But poor Tibetans have lost their homeland and motherland both. They are too few to fight it out with China. Don’t you think they need some friends like me?” On a couple of occasions, he just smiled and said, “It’s a smart answer. But you are also right.” I don’t know whether his answer was out of his understanding of the Tibetan situation or his own hopelessness about his own fight.

Today as I remember my father on his first anniversary I don’t have an honest answer to the question which has shaken my conscience during all these years of my love affair with Tibet, “DID I LOVE TIBET TO CHEAT MY FATHER???????”

 

The author is a veteran Indian journalist and a life-long friend of Tibet.

7 Responses

  1. Thank you for supporting Tibet these many years. Your story is also touching especially your late father’s yearning to get recognition of your status. We Tibetans are fighting for the same to retain our identity as Tibetans as we have been known since the founding of our nation.
    The unforgivable follies of India’s past leaders are now endangering the national security and integrity of India. You have been in the forefront of voicing your concern over Tibet with a clear understanding that Tibet was indispensable for the national security of India. It’s so sad that not many Indians have ever realised this aspect and have completely ignored the importance of Tibet for India.
    Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, India’s northern borders were peaceful and not a single soldier was guarding the Indo-Tibet border. But today, having militarised Tibet, the Chinese are slowly but steadily slicing away Indian territory from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. There is every likelihood that China may again invade India like it did in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley clash is a reminder that as long as Tibet is under Chinese occupation, India will have no peace on its northern border.

  2. Thank You and I promise you have your extended family good wishes with you all the time. I can’t comment on your personal opinion but did it touch me deep ’yes indeed’. I will forever be indebted for your contribution.
    ~A Tibetan Refugeee who still holds the same fire in the belly.

  3. Really happy to hear a soul searching “Maan ki Baath “ on Tibet.
    ……………And sorry to hear about the loss of your loving father.

    Salute to your ceaseless support and love for Tibet and Tibetans. This reminds me of an incident during the Indefinite Hunger Strike in New Delhi during 1998 program. Richard Gere was the Chief Guest and many people from the audience lean forward to make a hand-shake or to offer their V-cards to him. And suddenly Richard Gere told me to slow down so that he could receive your V-card. He told me afterward that you are a true supporter of Tibet and he cherish that. It shows that you are admired by all of us – far or near.
    You are right. Tibetans have not only lost their individual homeland but the entire Fatherland. I wish the Tibetans to understand the historical and linguistic relevance of Fatherland- Tibet ( Fayul !!!!!!)
    CHINESE HAVE THEIR MOTHERLAND. TIBETANS HAVE THEIR FATHERLAND. AS LONG AS THE CHINESE RESIDES ON THEIR MOTHERLAND AND LET TIBET REMAIN ON THEIR FATHERLAND- PEACE WILL PREVAIL.
    Linguistically, during the signing of 17 Point Agreement in China, the Chinese had difficulty in incorporating the Tibetan Fatherland (Fayul) into their Motherland. That’s why they had to invent a diplomatic word , just for the amoebic invasion in the treaty.
    Tseten norbu, your old friend from kathmandu

  4. Your father was a true patriot. He never gave up and he aptly named you as V i j a y K r a n t i . My salutation to you and prayers for the departed soul of your dear father.

    Thanks for your years of support for Tibet.

  5. Dear Vijay kranti ji, firstly I bow my head towards you with much respect from behalf of six millions Tibetan people, 48 years of being a friend of Tibet is immense depth which we can’t measure and it’s unconditional love for us. Thank you Vijay ji, I believe there will definitely a Vijay for kranti in Tibet..we Tibetan love you too.. long live indo Tibetan friendship…

  6. Thank you Vijay kranti ji , for loving Tibet with such passion . What you have shared with us in this article is the most beautiful and loving eulogy for your late beloved father that got me in tears . It’s beautiful and sentimental. It’s honest and truthful. Your passionate compassion for Tibet and the Tibetans came not as a fanfare; but as a supporter of and for justice for Tibet. Your strong faith and believe in our thousands of year old background history that is totally based on truth that deserves nothing less than Justice . Your loving support for Tibet is your love and respect for your high moral values for Justice. For that , we the Six-Million Strong of Three Major Provinces :Duthoe, Dumey and U.Tsang that makes the complete picture-Map of the world’s highest, and the tallest , and the most Majestic Plateau in the 🌏say;🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽❤️❤️❤️You !

  7. “DID I LOVE TIBET TO CHEAT MY FATHER???????”

    I will contain myself from opening a floodgate of psychological speculation and just say; Thanks for loving Tibet, Mr. Kranti. We love you back!!

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