February 26, 2021 11:19:51 am
As activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue, who was in Chandigarh on Thursday, marches on his 500-km walk from Dharamshala to Delhi raising awareness about the issue of Tibet, Pallavi Singhal talks to him about his journey and what lies ahead.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I am a Tibetan refugee born and raised in India. I studied at a refugee school at Patlikuhal village in Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh and later shifted to Dharamshala where I did my high schooling. I went to Loyola College, Chennai, for my bachelors in English and to Bombay University for my master’s in the same. I currently reside in Dharamshala and have been working as an activist and a writer.
Where did your activism begin and grow?
During school, I was told that I may have been born in India but I do not belong to this country. My parents had escaped from Tibet and lived the life of refugees. I have always been inspired by the idea of freedom struggle and by Bhagat Singh’s struggle for the freedom of his country. These kinds of ideas pushed me towards working towards my activism. I do it for the freedom of Tibet and to empower India.
Tell us about your march, the idea behind it and what you wish to achieve from it?
I started this march from Dharamshala on February 12, which was Tibetan New Year, and plan to end it on March 10 in New Delhi, which is Tibet’s national uprising day. My main aim is to highlight the issue of Tibet, especially now, when India is looking for a solution in response to China after the Galwan valley incident.
I feel as a Tibetan born in India, I have double duty both as a Tibetan to fight for the freedom of Tibet and also as an Indian to empower India diplomatically.
There is very little awareness in India about Tibet, especially about Chinese occupation of Tibet. Therefore, I am marching to create that awareness.
I think Tibet is the answer to give to China. Until now, Tibet has been the missing link between India and China. In the past, there had been this false pretence that India and China are friends. It started with ‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai’ and ended with India expecting some kind of investment from China. This stopped India from looking at any other alternative.
China never respected ‘One India’ policy while India continued to be civil and respected ‘One China’ policy. This has kept India at a disadvantage and positional weakness.
I am suggesting that India should repeal the ‘One China’ policy. I have not seen anyone actually doing it but this will empower India politically and diplomatically, and place India in a position of power.
Tibet’s independence is India’s security. In the long-term interest of India for border security, we need Tibet to be free.
What are you going to do once you reach Delhi?
I am seeking an appointment with the Prime Minister of India. I am not sure if it is possible but I am hopeful. I am also running an online signature campaign which petitions the government of India to change the ‘One China’ policy, asking people to sign in huge numbers.
Once I get to Delhi, I will deliver these signatures to the PM or his office. We will also have a concluding conference about India-China-Tibet relationship in Delhi.
How has your march been as yet? What are you doing on the march to create that awareness?
I started from Dharamshala, down into Kangra velley and came down into the plains of lower Himachal further entering Punjab. Today I am passing through Chandigarh and will take stops at Ambala and Kurukshetra, finally ending my walk in Delhi.
On the road, I distribute pamphlets which I have in Hindi, English and Punjabi. I am reaching people on the roadside and am telling them about Tibet and informing them of China’s occupation of our country.
Mai bharat seema surakhsha ke bare mai logon ko jaankari de raha hu (I am informing people about India’s border security) in three different languages.
What kind of response have you received from the people?
A large number of people are happy that someone is doing something to empower India in responding to China. I am getting a great response from people during this march. I am carrying a Tibetan as well an Indian national flag. People don’t usually expect or have rarely seen a Tibetan man carry both flags on his back. They are pleasantly shocked and want to know more. They immediately love the idea of a Tibetan face, hoisting Indian national flag, carrying it on my shoulder and distributing this paper.
People give me chai and ask me to sit down and talk to them. Their sense of nationalism comes over. They say ‘hum to rozi roti mai baithe hain, aap desh ke liye kaam kar rahe hain (We are consumed in earning bread, you are working for the nation).’
Has there been any unease with locals at Dharamshala over the years?
There is a difference of opinion that exists overall but I think we understand that the Tibetans are here temporarily and one day, when the issue resolves, we will return. I do not look at it like an unease. I think differences of culture, languages and especially political aspirations exist anywhere, where two different kinds of communities come together.
Do you have any expectations from the Centre?
I am petitioning the Government of India to change the One China policy and to take it up seriously. This is the way China can be given a befitting reply. People around the world as well as within are looking at the kind of response India has given.
You think your march will signify any change or make a difference?
Marches like these, whether it is Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March or Martin Luther’s march for civil liberties, I think this is the way to walk as a political exhibition and to highlight the issue and maintain momentum for a long period of time which can help galvanise enough support, awareness and change of opinion. Therefore, if this march does not change India’s policy, it will at least make India think again.
What do you think India’s recourse towards the current situation with China should be?
India has always acted as a subordinate to China. China has always been taking the initiative in dealing with the Himalayas. We have always been defensive as China decides when do they want to attack, when do they want to cause border incursions, when do they want a war. We have been defensive, protecting our image saying ‘kuch nahi hua hai’. But if we continue with this, we will be in a position of weakness and always be dictated upon. Tibet is a unique opportunity to dislodge China politically and diplomatically now.
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