By Ugyen Gyalpo
Today marks the thirty first anniversary of the conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize to HH the Dalai Lama. Thirty-one years ago, I remember watching a video of the occasion at our neighbor’s house in the now defunct VHS player. It was a time when World Wide Web was unimaginable and live streaming was unthinkable. Few excited Tibetan families including mine had gathered at this generous house to watch the video of the celebration. I was only sixteen back then. It was a different era, different time. It was an era when Tibetans at the March tenth protest would burn Chinese flags and break the Chinese flask.
I spontaneously felt a sheer sense of joy and pride to see our spiritual and secular leader of Tibet climb up to the summit of global recognition and adoration. Even though I was little too young to grasp the full gravity of our political crisis other than the fact that I was not Indian but a displaced son of a refugee.
The end of 1989 was at the cusp of ushering a new decade, a decade when China would enter the WTO red carpeted by the United States. It was an era when the world was changing at a really fast pace and globalization was fast shrinking the world. It was the year when the Berlin Wall would fall and when the Soviet Union would collapse. Countries after countries would reclaim independence from the Soviet. In the same infectious wave of freedom and liberty, the people of China also rose for democracy and greater rights against the Chinese Communist Party which led to the infamous Tiananmen massacre and the crushed uprising that is forever ingrained into our brain with that one picture of the Tank Man.
Not to diminish the Nobel Peace Prize, although for some world renowned leader like Mahatma Gandhi who became synonymous to non violence and peace and in whose footstep leaders like Dalai Lama, Martin Luther king and Mandela followed never won the prize even though he was nominated for five times amazes me to this day.
On the contrary Barack Obama just few months into his presidency was awarded unexpectedly to his own surprise the Nobel peace prize even though he had not accomplished anything at that early moment of his presidency. The conferment of the prestigious award like the one to unworthy candidates did diminish the prestige and the credibility of the award then. It is even said that no post celebration occurred in the White House after Obama won the award. It was unexpected and totally unrequited.
From the year 1989, when the Nobel peace prize was awarded to the Dalai Lama in recognition of his nonviolent campaign to end the Chinese occupation of Tibet and bring about a closure to the cause by a compromised path of that of seeking genuine autonomy, no conducive dialogue ever occurred between the Tibetan delegates and the Chinese authorities except of-course the few snubbed rounds.
Sadly after 1989, when Tibet was put up on the global map, thanks to the award, the era that ensued should have defined and shaped Tibet’s future at least in terms of some kind of closure that His Holiness had wished for his people. His Holiness even buried the claim of independence and compromised to live within the frameworks of the Chinese constitution. But in these over three decades on the contrary, far from any solution to the Tibetan issue, Tibet has been reduced to the most oppressed and most closed nation in the world. On the back of the pillage of the Tibet’s resources, the engine of China’s mammoth economy and its stratospheric rise took place. Tibet was sucked and raped to its skeletal frame, mountains dynamite into caters, lake sucked and dried, forest shaved to its stump, monasteries razed to the ground and monks forced into re-education camps.
In the meantime, the corrupt wind of change made countries to sweep Tibet under the hypocritical political rug. China’s economic and political clout forced many nations that once stood for Tibet to kowtow to their whims. United Nations played blind and deaf especially to the cries of the Tibetan people. Tibet in these thirty plus years transformed from Hollywood’s craze to a case of a leper that no one wanted to touch but only sympathize. Not even 165 self immolations to date inside of Tibet could swing the crooked pendulum of the moral compass of this world. More and more nations started isolating themselves from the Tibetan cause. Even Martin Scorsese and Hollywood shied away from making any more Tibet related movies after seeing the fate of Richard Gere and the likes whose acting career were brought to a standstill after their movies were banned in China, the most lucrative market in the world.
Over all the best thing that happened to Tibet after 1959 was the conferment of the Nobel peace prize to HHDL and the conferment of the US congressional gold medal to His Holiness by George W Bush in 2007.
The one award though, a well deserving and highly elusive one is the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India. It has been long overdue to confer such an honor to HHDL.
In the era before the CCP-Virus and the most recent tension at the Chinese occupied Tibet border, India’s policies of appeasement towards China had tied all hands and blocked all minds to go to that length. Now that India is up and against China, without having to kowtow to their economic clout, India should rise up and restore their dignity by conferring this highest civilian award to HHDL, who has single handedly revived and brought back the decaying ancient Nalanda tradition from its historical ruins and has also served as a goodwill ambassador for India anywhere he goes around the world. This would also serve as a huge symbolic slap in the face of Chinese Communist Party and the indignation fanned will be more fiery than the power of those missiles.
The Nobel committee stepped up to offer HHDL the Nobel peace prize more than three decades ago. The U.S also stepped up ignoring China’s condemnation by offering the Congressional Gold. I hope that India will step up too to confer the their highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, to His Holiness the Dalai Lama soon and send a message to China in this critical times when China is pinned at the anvil of judgement.
(Views expressed are his own)
The author is a blogger at ‘The Roar of the Snow Lion’. He is a Tibetan living in Woodside, New York.