Karnataka Tibetan camp wears a deserted look

AVAAZ petition for restraint and dialogue in Tibet

AVAAZ petition for restraint and dialogue in Tibet is exploding, with 253,353 signers since yesterday! Add your voice to the outcry now:

My association with Bylakuppe the mini Tibet in Karnataka goes back to the yer 2004 when I was doing my Journalism at SSCMS. It was a wonderful experience and learning to know the Tibetans and their cause. The first time I was there and it was rather unplanned but thoughtful visit. I started off in Bangalore alone but my collegue Gayatri Mordani soon joined me, and sooner there were two other friends from Auroville Perumal and Jones who loved to travel along with me. So here we go with three friends and with rumours that you need a permit to enter and it is a rather unknown mysterious place so on and so forth…..

But soon to be dispelled after our 6 hour drive in a state transport bus which tossed us here and there and it was early morning when we reached Bylakuppe. Since we were travelling the whole night it was a tiresome experience and I was thrilled to be there while my collegues started getting used to the surroundings of the rather deserted place. I asked the only chai wala open there of bylakuppe in my toota foota kannada and he said there was no transport available. We had our chai and soon there was this auto wala that came for a sip of chai and I started conversation in my difficult kannada and he soon said for four of you I shall charge 70 rupees we said ok and then started the illuminating and incredible journey into a country thats hidden in side India: TIBET.

The Golden temple, the monasteries, the wonderful songs of Tibet and the slogan shouting walls that showed the love for their home, the tibetan art shops nad not to miss jones’ adventure when he ordered the local food which turned out to be a nonveg dish and he almost puked while we enjoyed the dish.

AVAAZ petition for restraint and dialogue in Tibet

AVAAZ petition for restraint and dialogue in Tibet is exploding, with 253,353 signers since yesterday! Add your voice to the outcry now:

March 19, 2008

Tashi Delek — this very warm greeting is missing. They have all left their base camps as their country is calling them.

The otherwise busy Tibetan settlement at Bayalakuppe, which is a three-hour drive from Bengaluru and the biggest in the world next to Tibet today, wears a deserted look.

The shutters are down and one hardly sees anyone on the road. Someone had said a couple of years back, “You feel as though you are in a separate country when you enter this settlement. Pretty girls, well dressed men and lots of school kids from Tibet crowd the roads in this settlement, which houses 30,000 refugees.”

There is a sense of gloom as you drive past the roads of this settlement. You can see people making inquiries about their brothers in Tibet and some are even seen consoling others.

The news that over 100 protesting Tibetans have been killed by Chinese forces has sent shock waves here.

These people say that these are not just rumours and they believe that many more could have died in their homeland.

At least 15,000 Tibetans from this settlement have left for various parts of the country to participate in the protest for a Free Tibet.

The 10,000 monks in the settlement take part in day-long prayers for the well being of their fellow men.

They have been instructed by their leader Dalai Lama to pray for a free country.

A monk at the Namdroling monastery, also known as the Golden Temple, curtly replied when asked about the ongoing protests — “Only dharma here sir, no politics please. We are here only to pray for our countrymen and we do not get into the politics of it.”

Interestingly, there are no anti-Chinese banners or buntings near any of the monasteries or for that matter in the entire settlement.

Paper cuttings with the news of the people who have died in Tibet has been blown up and put up at four installations.

The people in the settlement maintain that Bayalakuppe is more of a pilgrimage spot and by putting up banners, the very sanctity of the place will be lost.

Tashi Wangdu, representative, Department of Home, Central Tibetan Administration, Tibetan Dickey Larsoe Settlement, told rediff.com that communication with Lhasa has been cut off.

“All the information we manage to get is from Tibetans working in high posts in the Chinese government. We have been getting reports of several persons dying. We have also been told that several Tibetans are badly injured and refuse to go to hospital as it is run by the Chinese. They fear that a sure death awaits them if they enter these hospitals. They are lying in their homes without any treatment,” he says.

Jhampa Khangsan, a member of the settlement, says they never believed in a violent protest.

Over here we can only pray and hold peaceful protests. Sometimes, I fail to understand the policy of the Indian government. They are supportive of all our needs, such as land, infrastructure and education.

However, when it comes to diplomatic ties with China, they are extremely cautious.

Most of the Tibetans in this settlement depend on tourism for their livelihood.

However, today it is different as they are very badly hit.

The settlement had at least 15,000 visitors every day.

However today the number is negligible and some say it is as bad as a 100 per day.

Apart from the monasteries, the biggest attraction were the shops, which had all sort of fancy items from Buddha statues, incense sticks and anything related to Feng Shui.

However, all the shutters are down since Saturday due to this protest.

Most of them say that the shutters were downed voluntarily and there was no pressure from anyone to do so.

A handful of tourists can be witnessed at the Namdroling monastery. Apart from that, activity in this settlement is next to nothing.

What is interesting is that the whole concept of a Free Tibet does not remain just with the aged and the middle aged.

The awareness is growing even among the children in schools.

There are 3,000 students studying in various schools in the settlement.

Wangdo says they did not want to involve the students in any of these protests as they needed to concentrate on their studies.

However on Monday, around 300 students in middle and high school walked out of class and took a bus to Mysore where a candlelight vigil was being held.

However, these kids were disappointed as they were told that they could not take part. Now a candlelight vigil has been arranged exclusively for the students.

Although there is a lot of enthusiasm among the people of Tibet to fight the Chinese, there are a good number of people who are scared too.

Dechen, resident of the new settlement in Bayalakuppe says that he is worried for his nephew who is in Tibet.

I have not heard from him and I am told that it is not possible to get through to Tibet at the moment, Dechen said.

Most of the persons including Dechen refused to have their photographs clicked. They say that it may cause a problem if they apply for a visa and that the Chinese are watching every move of theirs.

Image: Tibetans from all over Karnatake stage a dharna in Bangalore on Monday on the occasion of 49th Tibetan National Uprising and Martyrs Day.

The representatives when told about this fear among the people said this is not the right attitude.

If people are scared, then there is no way in which we can fight. We have told the people on numerous occasions to maintain peace, but not to be scared.

The Tibetans say the protests are not going to stop and nothing can deter them. We have three options before us — one is to adopt a violent form of protest, the other the Gandhian principle and lastly just give up the fight.

We have decided to adopt the Gandhian principle, says, Tsering, a lady at the camp. We believe that only the Mahatma’s way can win us our freedom.

The protests in Karnataka are expected to get them attention as settlement of Tibetans there is very high. At the Bayalakuppe settlement, there are 30,000 Tibetans while in Hunsur and Kollegal there are 35,000 and 5,000 respectively.

Another place which has got a large settlement in Karnataka is at Mundgod with 15,000 Tibetans.

The president of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress said during the protest in Bangalore they will continue to express solidarity with the men who have lost their lives during the protests.

We are seeking autonomy and not independence, he says. He also adds there will be a protest in Mumbai on April 17 when the Olympic torch arrives over there.

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