‘Value Our Freedom Here’: Why Young Tibetans Want to Thank India

Sixty years ago, India became home to the Dalai Lama and thousands of other Tibetans who fled the Chinese clampdown.

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By calling India his second home, 31-year-old Kung Murgan – who lives in Delhi's Majnu ka Tilla – echoes the sentiment of many of his fellow Tibetan refugees living across the country.

We Tibetan people have flourished here for the past 60 years. We have managed to preserve our culture here, we can practise our religion freely. We have freedom of expression, something which we don’t have back home. If you express something freely back home, you might land up prison.
Kung Murgan

Home, for him, is Tibet "under Chinese occupation", where he longs to go one day, even though he was born and brought up in India.

Sixty years ago, India became home to the 14th Dalai Lama and thousands of other Tibetans, as they fled a Chinese clampdown that culminated in the Tibetan uprising of March 1959.

Starting 31 March 2018, Tibetan refugees settled all across India will mark the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan government-in exile with a series of 'Thank You, India' events.


But Why do Young Tibetans Want to Thank India (or Not)?

At Majnu ka Tilla, a predominantly Tibetan settlement in north Delhi also known an Samyeling, refugees say that they have been treated at par with any other Indian citizen. They are grateful not just for the homes they have been provided with, but also cherish the freedom they are entitled to.

In every Delhi college, there are Tibetan students, which provides them access to the modern education system. We are also able to easily set up our businesses and work here, which a great opportunity for all of us.

As he keenly watches local polls for women being conducted in the locality, 30-year-old Lobsang Tsering points out how the relations between Tibet and India cannot just be traced from 1959, but are centuries old. Echoing the outlook of the Dalai Lama, who considers India the ‘guru’ and Tibet the ‘disciple’, he says:

We consider India as our teacher. And our relations with the subcontinent date back to when Lord Buddha was there. So our relationship has always been special. 
Lobsang Tsering

However, while lauding India as "great place to live in", a few people who The Quint spoke to in the locality were apprehensive to be be in front of the camera, for either fear of persecution of their families living in Tibet, or of themselves if they are to go back.


Govt Officials to ‘Stay Away’ From ‘Thank You, India’ Events, What Does This Mean?

As the Tibetan community was busy planning the 'Thank You, India' events, it came to light that the Indian government had issued a note wherein it told its "functionaries" and "senior leaders" to not attend such events, citing a “sensitive time” as far as its relationship with China is concerned. Subsequently, the 'Thank You, India' main event, scheduled for 31 March, was shifted from Delhi to Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh.

While some have viewed this move as a setback to the relations between the Indian government and the Tibetan community, the residents of Majnu ka Tilla have labelled it as just "a surface-level show".

I don’t think it’s something we should really be concerned about. I can understand the Indian government’s situation. China is a powerful nation and has a lot of influence economically. So India needs to make some adjustment to that influence. But that doesn’t mean India doesn’t support us.
Kung Murgan

On the other hand, calling it a "tough decision", Lobsang Tsering is hopeful that the Indian government would reverse its decision and allow officials to attend the 'Thank You, India' events.

For now, there does not seem to be a lot of concern about this move, but the question still lingers for the near future: Will India’s powerplay with China affect its bonhomie with the Tibetans?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Tibet   Tibetans in India   The Dalai Lama 

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