Son of Tibetan Refugees Walks 500 Km for Tibet Uprising Day
But what makes the son of two Tibetan refugees walk 500 kilometres to change a 70-year-old government policy?
Tenzin Tsundue, 46, is on a mission to tell people about Tibet—the land he calls home, but one he is forbidden to return to.
On Losar, the Tibetan New Year that was celebrated on 12 February, Tsundue began a 500-km-long march from Dharamshala. He went all the way to Jantar Mantar in the national capital, where he reached on 10 March, in time for the Tibetan National Uprising Day.
The Tibetan diaspora celebrate Tibetan National Uprising Day each year to remind the world that, “The Tibetan issue is still relevant and should not be ignored,” says Tsundue, who identifies himself as an Indian-Tibetan.
It is Tibet that has inspired his generation to do beyond just living a personal life.
“It is both inherited memories from our parents, and the dream for us personally. We seem to be the missing link between the past Tibet that our parents knew of, and the future Tibet we are yet to see,” Tsundue tells The Quint.
Tsundue wants to tell people about what happened to his family, his people, and his once-free land. Born in India to Tibetan refugees, who were persecuted from their land, Tsundue knows this is a long fight. “Regaining independence for Tibet is like finally coming home,” he says.
And he is not just fighting for himself. He admits he may never see his country free of Chinese occupation during his time, but hopes that generations of Tibetan refugees are free of persecution. Not only do Tibetan refugees belong in Tibet, but Tibet belongs to them too, he says.
A Long March
Tsundue took it upon himself to march alone, covering 20 to 25 km daily, with two friends who supported him with logistics, such as identifying places he can rest in.
He wanted to challenge the ignorance people have around Tibet. He told The Quint that the people he met along the way came from various backgrounds, and “didn’t know that Tibet used to be India’s largest neighbouring country, with the largest common border with India.”
“People are getting to know of our story firsthand. It is important to me that common people know about Tibet.”Tenzin Tsundue
He believes that walking has the tremendous power to convince people, especially when you are walking for one month. He is spreading the message of ‘Free Tibet, Secure India’—and believes that this movement is gaining momentum in recent times of the LAC standoff between Indian and Chinese troops.
The 500-km Journey
Tsundue carried pamphlets in English, Hindi, and Punjabi. His face is burnt under the scorching sun, his body is tired, but his spirit is as alive as ever.
He tells The Quint that for the people he met along the way, Tibet was ‘Kailash Mansarovar’. That’s how they could connect with his land. He had many interactions with local sellers on the streets, including juice sellers and road side dhabas. After listening to him, they would often offer to buy him tea and food along the way, as well as invite him to their homes.
The route that Tsundue had planned had him walking through the Kangra Valley to enter the plains of Punjab from Una. He stopped over at Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara to pay his respects, following which he headed to Mohali, Panchukula, and then Chandigarh. From Chandigarh, he reached Delhi via Karnal, Ambala, and Sonepat.
Through this journey, Tsundue camped on the streets in night shelters, carrying his sleeping bag, and speaking to everyone around him about his peaceful movement for independence in Tibet.
His journey is mostly self-funded, with close friends contributing as well-wishers, to help him cover his basic food costs.
Walk a Mile for Tibet. But Why?
But what makes the son of two Tibetan refugees walk 500 km to change a 70-year-old government policy and to compel him to tell the stories of his land, his culture, and his people?
Tsundue calls Tibet the missing link between the India-China crisis. He says that although India has respected the ‘One China Policy’, China hasn’t adhered, and continues to stake claim to “entire state of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Ladakh, Himachal, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim, and has dragged India to the UN on Kashmir”.
Tsundue says he is not just calling for awareness but is asking for action, urging the Indian government to repeal the ‘One China Policy’.
“Why is India condemned to this old defunct principle?” he asks.
On Being a Tibetan in India
Tsundue cannot separate himself from his Tibetan culture, and his dual identity of being both Indian and Tibetan. He embodies this duality, by carrying both the Indian tricolour and the Tibetan national flag during his march.
He says he is born in India, and is as Indian as it gets, but his heart is also in the Tibetan freedom struggle.
Tsundue explains that, “The Snow Lion Tibetan National Flag was first designed and used in 1916 during the first World War. There was a time Tibet was independent, and it had its own national flag during that time.”
He reads his poetry to people he meets along the way, about being Tibetan in India, belonging to a generation that has never seen Tibet. For him, it’s a reclamation of his identity. In one of his poems, My Tibetanness in his Kora collection, he writes:
I am Tibetan
But I am not from Tibet
Never been there
Yet I dream of dying there
In another poem, titled Exile House, he writes:
The fences have grown into a jungle
now how can I tell my children
where we came from?
In another moving poem, When it rains in Dharamshala, he writes:
I sit on my island-nation bed
and watch my country in flood
notes on freedom
memoirs of my prison days
letters from college friends
crumbs of bread
and Maggi noodles
rise sprightly to the surface
like a sudden recovery
of a forgotten memory
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