Sunday, February 5, 2012

Self Immolation in Tibet, the 2008 Uprising and Our Plan of Action

It is not a pleasant experience to see almost every other day, the news about a fellow Tibetan setting oneself up for that ultimate sacrifice of one's existence, so that he may be recognized as being different, so that he may be recognized to have an identity that defines a nation, a free spirit and a resilient human being.

(For those who are unaware of the current situation in Tibet see Self Immolation in Tibet)

The recent surge of self-immolation in Tibet and its continuity jolts the very core of the moral dilemma the global community and government's face. It is not my intention to berate about how the international community fails to do anything about it, and how everyone is so helpless or unwilling to take any form of tangible action pertaining to Tibet. The purpose of this blog entry is to analyse and self-critique, the role we Tibetans ourselves play, in either the failure or the success of our efforts throughout such events, including the 2008 Tibetan Uprising.

It has only been a couple of years since the "2008 Uprising in Tibet" occurred and our reactions of protest marches, well intentioned cries for freedom and democracy in Tibet etc. have slowly faded in the discussions about global economy, the Arab Spring , the american elections and everything else. Yes, we did react as we should and we did put an effort in making the world aware about whats happening in Tibet. I am sure, the awareness about Tibet is at an all time high, owing to the events that followed the 2008 uprising. But what else has changed. Has the perception about an ever growing China, its economy and its ever increasing geo-political significance in Asia overshadowed by its continuing actions in Tibet? Has there been the birth of an important global political coalition that has the will and the resources to influence policies concerning Tibet within China? Have Tibetans been able to achieve long lasting and sustainable goals when it comes to dealing with China?

I know these questions are hard and I know these goals are hard to achieve. The point is, amidst all the emotion and the anger we feel when something in Tibet happens, we lose sight of things that we can do, that are achievable, sustainable and things that could have a longer lasting impact in our struggle for a "Free Tibet". I am not asking anyone to stop protesting or carrying a Tibetan flag with pride and the will to do anything to uphold it, or from screaming out our grievances to the global community, to the point where we get a sore throat. But one thing that I ask is, could there be something more than that, that we could do.

Are there actions that we could take, everyday as a Tibetan, that could have a lasting impact? Is there a commitment we could make, that makes our chest thumping on March 10 (commemorated as Tibetan Uprising Day of 1959) , more meaningful and purposeful, than just an outburst of occasional emotions and angst, with an annual cycle.

The lessons post 2008 Tibetan uprising, do not lie in realizing that our brethrens in Tibet are not happy under Chinese oppressive regime but more so in what we have done so far, to one day, alleviate them of their suffering in Tibet and our own sufferings of being in exile.

The emotions, the rage, the anger and the helplessness we felt during the 2008 uprising in Tibet and now the recent self-immolation drive in Tibet, can be and should be channeled into both short term and a long term plan of action. A plan of action that does not merely ask you to come to a protest march, or the distribution of pamphlets but goes beyond that, and asks for commitment and for sacrifice. But this does not underscore the importance of letting the world know what is happening through our usual means of action (protests, demonstrations, marches etc.)

There are many things we as Tibetans could do, in these moments of solidarity. Despite hundreds dying in the 2008 uprising and many recently, what have we done to take care of their families and children. Have we thought of finding an organised way of helping our brethrens and their family's economical woes after one of the major income earner sacrifices his life for his country? I know sporadic actions have occurred, but nothing tangible. The challenges to do it effectively are great, but have we even tried yet. I know organisations like "Gu-Chu-Sum" help in facilitating helping the families of deceased in Tibet, but really at a small scale. Even then, have you donated to such organisations?

There are a couple of foreign organisations working on various projects in Tibet. How many of us know about it and how many of us have done something to help these organisations? I know sometimes direct involvement in such organisations is not desired but there are means to aid their efforts.

Then there is a whole range of things we could do in exile from the education of the youth, to their employment, health of the former political prisoners, welfare of the recent arrivals from Tibet and so on. Yes, the Tibetan Administration in exile is doing its best. But what are we doing at an individual and personal level. Do you even donate 50 dollars for a social cause listed above?

Only a strong and successful social structure in exile, both in terms of cultural identity as well as economic success, would ensure that the voice of those in Tibet will be carried out for as long as it takes. And this would need, the involvement of everyone outside Tibet, especially our economically (relatively) well off brethren in the US, Europe etc.

I am sure, many Tibetan communities have already gathered or are gathering to discuss and evaluate our options at this juncture. I hope they consider, this point of sustainability and long lasting efforts, with respect to whatever plan of action they come up with.

With every sad incident in Tibet, comes an opportunity for Tibetans outside. The opportunity does not just entail the funeral of a fellow countrymen, on whose grave, you are to cry, wail and be angry as a devoted widow/er. But more so, in the realisation, that this surge of energy, this surge of enthusiasm, this outburst of nationalism could be channeled into achieving long lasting goals and sustaining perennial efforts, where we live everyday and every breath, as an active Tibetan.


  1. Thank you for bringing into notice the spelling mistake...!!

  2. I really the way in which you express your thought, Obviously it touches our heart, and tells us where we are not be able to do some thing which actually not difficult at all! we need to think carefully and find the proper way through which we can mobilize collective efforts! thank you