February 13, 2015 3:36:17 am
During last summer, city-based student Namita Rao interned with Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) in Dharamshala, an organisation involved with the Tibetan freedom struggle. The internship, she says, taught her about peaceful activism. Back in Pune, she became a part of SFT, Pune Chapter. It consists of students who come together to work on activities and events focussed on creating awareness about the Tibetan movement.
“Not many people are aware about the conflict. Every country marks significant historical dates in its founding as a nation. Regardless of its current political status, Tibet is no exception. STF has set aside February 13 as an important day to commemorate Tibet’s independent past,” says Rao, a student of Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. She adds that every year SFT plans a campaign around a certain theme. This year it has chosen ‘Tibetan National Flag’ as its theme and the campaign is called ‘Tibet Flag Challenge’.
The flag, she says, is an enduring symbol of the Tibetan people’s struggle for freedom and independence. Under the ‘Tibet Flag Challenge’, members of SFT Pune have clicked pictures of the Tibetan flag with Pune heritage sites in the background. The seven sites in the city where the students have clicked pictures are Shaniwar Wada, Vishrambaug Wada, University of Pune, Aga Khan Palace, Mahatma Phule Mandai, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute and Garware Bridge.
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“Despite over 60 years of Chinese occupation and their systematic attempt to erase the history, culture, and unique identity of the Tibetan people, Tibetans in Tibet, especially the new generation, are reclaiming and securing the truth about Tibet’s past and increasing their calls for freedom,” says Suvarna Kaushal, SFT Pune Chapter coordinator.
“Raising the flag inside Tibet can get you arrested and tortured. By shining light on the Tibetan flag, we aim to make it one of the most recognisable flags in the world as a symbol of freedom and resistance. This will help to secure the Tibetan people’s proud past and shape the future for a free Tibet,” adds Kaushal.
Talking more about STF, Pune Chapter, which was started in the year 2010, Kaushal informs that it is a chapter-based network of young people and activists around the world.
Through education, grassroots organising and non-violent direct action, the members campaign for the Tibetans’ fundamental right to political freedom. The group consists of 17 members currently, mostly students.
Rutuja Ladkat, another member, says that the seven photographs clicked at seven different sites will be uploaded on Facebook page of SFT Pune Chapter. “Every year, we do something new revolving around Tibet. For instance, last year, under the initiative ‘Voice of the Voiceless’, seven to eight students made individual videos wherein they talked about historical, cultural and other aspects of Tibet. The videos were uploaded on YouTube. We also organised Tibet Food Festival last year,” said Ladkat.
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