Eventually, the Chinese agreed to trilateral discussions, authorising their delegate to negotiate as equals with McMahon and Tibetan delegate Lonchen Shastra. Most issues at Simla were dealt with relatively smoothly, but delineating boundaries proved next to impossible. The Tibetans didn’t like British proposals for the Tibetan-Indian border, and neither the Chinese nor the Tibetans liked the “compromise” boundary McMahon proposed for Tibet’s eastern border with China. Nonetheless, the Tibetans signed the Simla Treaty. The Chinese didn’t, stating disagreement with the boundary settlement as the reason.
The inability to delineate the Tibetan-Chinese boundary proved an obstacle time and again for Tibet, and later for India. Two years after the British “quit” India, Mao Tse-tung birthed the People’s Republic of China (PRC). One of his first acts was to “liberate” Tibet from feudalism and imperialism. What Mao called liberation, Tibetans called invasion. Tibetans first attempted cooperation, then rose up in arms against the Chinese, and eventually in 1959 the Dalai Lama escaped to India where he, the Tibetan government-in-exile, and over 1,00,000 Tibetans remain today. Meanwhile, the PRC incorporated Tibet into its polity, partitioning and reorganising its territory into several Chinese provinces: Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Ironically, at the historical moment of European decolonisation and as India gained her independence, Tibet became a colony of a Communist empire.
Who are the Tibetan soldiers of the Special Frontier Force? Tibetan refugees. Most of them were born in India, the children and grandchildren of the Tibetans who escaped into exile in 1959. They do not have citizenship in India, but are instead organised as members of the Dalai Lama’s community in exile. Until 2011, the Dalai Lama was the political and religious head of this community, just as he had been in Tibet. In 2011, however, he resigned his political powers, and turned the leadership of the Central Tibetan Administration over to a democratically elected leader. Yet, while the current leader of the Tibetan community is Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the Dalai Lama is still paramount for the community and for Tibetan relations with both India and China.
He is the centre of the Tibetan community, the person to whom Tibetans look for guidance in all things. What the Dalai Lama says and does, and what he does not say or do, matter immensely to Tibetans. In that Tibetans take him not only as a political and religious leader, but also as an enlightened being, a reincarnation of Chenrezig (or Avalokitesvara), the deity of wisdom and compassion, they give to him a faith and a belief and a trust unparalleled in other relationships. An example of this has been Tibetan acceptance—sometimes begrudging—of the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way approach to Sino-Tibetan relations, including his proclamation that the Tibetan struggle was to be a non-violent one.
Tibetans have lent the Dalai Lama their support in an almost unconditional way. Instead of violent protests, they organise hunger strikes, they demonstrate outside the Chinese embassy, they conduct marches and hold letter-writing campaigns. In exile, some of this pushes the boundaries of what the Dalai Lama calls non-violent. Hunger strikes, for example, he considers violence against the self. Nonetheless, via his person and his position he commands the respect and the devotion needed from Tibetans to keep the community coherent and united. Will a series of democratically elected political leaders be able to do the same? And how will relations between Tibetans inside and outside Tibet continue to take shape over the next few years?
Since 2009, 54 Tibetans have self-immolated. They have poured kerosene onto and into their bodies and lit matches, setting themselves on fire. Most have done so in Tibet, but some have immolated in exile. Those who have left records of their intentions call for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, of independence for Tibet, and speak to the frustrations of life as an occupied people. The first Tibetan self-immolator, Thupten Ngodup, did so in Delhi in 1998 after Indian police forcibly removed six Tibetans on Day 49 of their hunger strike unto death. Ngodup was a veteran of the Tibetan Special Frontier Force. He had defended the McMahon Line for India. He, the Dalai Lama, and millions of Tibetans inherited McMahon’s mess in more ways than one. But there are many responsible parties; McMahon alone is not to blame. Tibet’s conservative government was not able to successfully establish its international boundaries. Nehru’s independent India inherited British imperial treaties that favoured Britain, but not always India. The US’s Cold War politics compelled covert support of Tibetan military and intelligence missions along the Sino-Indian border. And, following the lead of successive Chinese regimes that tried to lay claim to Tibet, Mao Tse-tung finally incorporated it into China, even convincing over a billion Chinese that Tibet had “always been a part of China”, but not persuading several million Tibetans of the same. Those Tibetans matter.
Now is a critical time for Tibet—2012 is not just the 50th anniversary of the Sino-Indian War, but also the most intense period of political protest in Tibet since 1959. In protesting Chinese rule, Tibetans are speaking directly to each other. In protest, in poetry, in music, and in flame, they call to each other: to unite, to move forward together, to envision and create a new future. Not a historical project of blame, but a political project of change. India, China and the world would do well to take note.
(The author is associate professor of anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, and a historian specialising in Tibet)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
It is a difficult situation. The Chinese are asking, why is China not Tibet? If Tibet is not China, then China is not Tibet. Every concern must introspect. In China, leaders were supposed to be anti-China, when the Chinese leaders asked the Dalai Lama to be the second most important man, in politics, Chinese politics. Obviously, the Dalai Lama is a religious icon. I seem to have read this fact, perhaps in Encyclopaedia Britannica, and if I misread, then it is regrettable. It seems, no man is anointed any leader in China, because he is asked to lead by other equally famous party persons, within the Communist Party. Any of these people could have been voted, by themselves, or by people within them. India, too thought, that what was happening to the people, even if they are leaders, and even if anyone can seem to be anarchist, meant that China did not understand what India stood for. It seems, the Chinese did not want Indian interests.
To the people who haven't had this idea, the leaders in the Cultural Revolution, were perhaps humiliated, by ordinary people, who didn't have any position. or property. Among these ordinary people, who killed these leaders, as it is said, some became leaders of what might be called mobs, and these ambitious people became leaders, who also underwent humiliation, execution, by ordinary people, and this is supposed to have cleansed the system of Chinese politics. There seems to be the perception of corruption, still, in China, despite the Cultural Revolution.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT