By Ugyen Gyalpo
Back in the heydays of my teenage years, when I use to decorate my small room with posters of footballers and rock bands alike perched up in the beautiful hills of Darjeeling, one poster that took the best spot on my wall was the poster of Hollywood movie called the Rambo III, of Sylvester stallion trotting machine gun and strapped with bows and arrows on his back, saddled on a reared horse on its hind legs. And, behind the image of the imposing picture was the many fading faces of Mujahedeen fighters on horses wielding weapons in the air amidst the sandstorm the gallops of the horses would create.
As we all know that Mujahedeen fighters were the cradle of the Talibans we know today. Once during the soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the early eighties, Mujahedeen resistance fighters were aided heavily by the Americans, who not only funded but also trained them at the height of the Cold War era. America’s involvement whether it was in Vietnam or Afghanistan has been always for their own self interest and of course to curb and control the spread of communism.
America’s involvement with the Tibetan guerrilla resistance fighters like the Chushi Gangdruk was no different. When they saw a defiant resistance group willing to rise up and fight against the Chinese Communist, like they saw in Mujahedeen fighting against the occupation of Soviets, the Americans were quick to tap into the raging gasoline of those freedom fighters. Although no Hollywood flicks has been made to glorify the valor and courage of the Tibetan resistance fighters like they glorified the Mujahedeen in Rambo III.
Pretty much like the U.S aided Mujahedeen mission of the Soviet occupation era, Tibetan guerrilla movement was also funded by CIA to fight the Chinese Communist Party and just as abruptly pulled off with its changing foreign policies and changing of the guards at the White House. These covert sometimes overt missions in retrospect had some similarities with the United States helping of the Mujahedeen fighters equipping them with modern weapons with the objective of making the occupation of Russians both difficult and costly, just as they had hoped with U.S aided CIA covert mission in Tibet to make the occupation of Tibet to the Chinese liberation army expensive, by way of help orchestrate guerrilla style ambush to the key movement of Chinese troops through the highways choking off their crucial supply lines. But what’s not the same is the aftermath of U.S involvement and devolvement in both the regions and the consequential impact it had on both the resistance group after the United States decides to leave them in total disarray.
U.S led covert Mujahedeen fighters of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Russia emerged and transformed into the barbaric Talibans we know today, who has now taken total control of Afghanistan once again and swears to rule the country in the strictest of Islamic sharia laws that is bound to suffocate all rights of women and men alike.
While the CIA funded and trained Tibetan guerrilla fighters on the other hand totally disintegrated, never to regroup and carry on their fight in the mountains of Tibet and Nepal border regions. In 1968, the Johnson administration tapered all funding to this mission to what they called a pointless war. The end of U.S support to the Tibetan fighters was further expedited when Washington decides to pull the final plug. By 1974, after President Richard Nixon had normalized U.S. relations with China with the Ping Pong diplomacy, any semblance of help by the U.S to the Tibetans guerrilla fighters were gone.
Despite all of this, the resistance continued on its own weary but passionate legs for a little longer until the final death knell for the Tibetan fighters came when His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet at the time, through a radio message urged the resistance fighters to surrender and give up their weapons. It is said that few had committed suicide out of total frustration.
In retrospect, the common denominator I think between the U.S aided Mujahedeen fighters and the U.S led Tibetan resistance fighters was their quest to drive the colonizers out from their countries, period. But the difference between the two in terms of emergence of one as the Taliban and the disintegration of the other to the realms of societal tiers and diffused into the pages of self censored history by its own government to fit its current political narrative and other multiple reasons owed to divergent views.
I am wondering if faith, religion and spiritual leaders of respective movements played a pivotal role in influencing and shaping who they became and were identified as?
I am wondering if it was the mind-set of accepting or rejecting world beliefs and world views in their old dogmatic terms that decided their fate for better or worse?
I am wondering if it was the ideological or the theological differences of let’s say of one fighting the holy war versus the second embracing the Buddhist concept of impermanence of things, that led one to emerge as a force to reckon with and other to disintegrate without any recognition into the forgotten chapters of our self censored history remains to be question hovering inside of this curious inquisitive mind.
(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.