While India maintains that Tibetan spiritual leader Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje is yet to apply for a visa on his newly acquired passport of Commonwealth of Dominica, the 17th Karmapa, speaking for the first time, said that he had applied for a visa in October last year and is yet to hear from Indian authorities.
Addressing the 36th Kagyu Monlam through webcast, Karmapa said, “As you all know, I have a new passport. Once I got the new one, my old document Identity Certificate (IC) became invalidated. I went to the Indian Embassy in New York (in October 2018) to turn into them. I went there and told them I needed to turn my old travel document (IC) and further requested them to grant me a visa on my new passport.”
In his 35 minute speech, Karmapa says that he was unable to get a visa from India and explained, “But the people in that office (Indian Embassy in New York) told me that they are not authorised to do so and they needed to ask their offices in Delhi about it. There was a lot of back and forth which took a bit of time and in the end, I could not get it done.”
Kagyu Monlam is the annual event organised in December or January of every year where hundreds of disciples of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism come together to share aspiration prayers in holy places throughout India. It is held at Bodhgaya and is considered one of the most significant events in the Buddhist calendar.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who is believed to be in the United States, further said, “I hope to return to India as quickly as I can. Up till this point, I am having conversations with the Indian government.”
Karmapa address on his YouTube channel was aired 16 hours ago. Narrating the sequence of events that unfolded last year, he says that he has not been able to come for Kagyu Monlam twice.
“I have not been able to come. This is quite noteworthy and I apologise to all of you. In general, during November last year, there was a great meeting planned in Dharamshala for which all the leaders of the entire lineage were to attend. I had a great wish to attend. But in October, I thought that before going to Canada, I will quickly travel to India. I wanted to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama as I hadn’t seen him for a long time. I also wanted to meet and talk with the officials of the Indian government.”
New Delhi, sources said was upset that Karmapa didn’t share information about him acquiring a foreign passport and the issue was flagged by Intelligence agencies which have long suspected him to be a Chinese spy.
In 2015, India was willing to engage with Dorje when the Narendra Modi government reviewed the 2000 Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) decision and eased domestic travel restrictions for him — it allowed him to visit Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, except the Rumtek monastery.
Karmapa had on an earlier occasion conveyed his discomfort with being watched by intelligence agencies and clearance from the MHA for travel within India.
The influential Buddhist religious leader of Kagyu sect came to India in 2000 after his dramatic escape from Tibet at the age of 14. The Sikkim government has written to the Centre on multiple occasions to allow Dorje to make his claim as the 17th Karmapa.