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“If somebody is oppressed, you cannot be free yourself”

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Rudrani Dasgupta, our correspondent from Kolkata, got the opportunity to walk the talk with Shibayan Raha, who has been fighting for the Tibetan cause, nearly all his life.

Why on earth would someone fight for the freedom of another nation? Isn’t it enough being free yourself? That is not what Shibayan Raha believes in. “As long as somebody out there is being oppressed, you cannot be free yourself”.

This is what he says.

India has a size-able number of Tibetan refugees and quite a few of them know Shibayan as one of those young people who are fighting passionately for the freedom of Tibet from China. He is not your average college activist shouting slogans from the canteen. In fact he chose to give up all that for a cause he believes in.

Shibayan Raha started out as a kid who was disillusioned with the monotony of life around him. He finally found his calling when he went to Darjeeling in 2003. He saw flags and posters all around, rallying for a Free Tibet. “Something just struck my mind”, Shibayan says. And here he is, five years down the line.

In 2006, he went to Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh), the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan-Government-in-exile. Soon after that` he joined Students for Free Tibet (SFT) as a volunteer.

On 23rd November 2006, Chinese president Hu Jintao came to Mumbai for the India-China Economic, Trade and Investment Cooperation Summit. Outside the Taj Hotel Shibayan unfolded the Tibet flag which read “China Get Out of Tibet and Aksai Chin”. He was arrested on various charges and the case is still on. However, this did nothing to dampen his passion.

Shibayan, protesting in Mumbai

On 9th April 2007, he was arrested along with another activist Migmar Tsering while trying to storm the Chinese Embassy in Delhi. They were protesting for the release of the Panchen Lama who comes second in the Tibetan religious hierarchy after the Dalai Lama. He has been kidnapped by the Chinese government at the age of six, a few days after he was recognised as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. This activity sparked off a chain of events leading to his arrest. He landed up in Tihar jail where he went on a complete hunger strike. After three days without any food or water, the jail authorities forcibly hospitalised him citing the excuse of tuberculosis. After five days, he was finally released.

When you question him about all this, he replies in a cheerful voice. Shibayan has no regrets about having gone to jail. “You get to meet all kinds of people there. It is an experience in itself.” At times, such unflagging optimism can bewilder, to say the least. All his harrowing experiences have not done anything to diminish his passion for Tibet. He has earned the respect of thousands of Tibetans and other people for not letting go.

Today, he is the Outreach Coordinator for SFT and working hard.

“There are 7 million Chinese as compared to the 6 million Tibetans in Tibet today”. Thousands of Tibetans are being jailed, beaten up and tortured every day in Chinese prisons. “I have met Tibetan political prisoners who have been in prison for over three decades. Today, they are free and have smiles on their faces, in spite of what they went through.” He speaks of a woman who had been imprisoned for over thirty years. When she was released, her daughter could nor recognise her. People are tortured for participating in non-violent peace protests in the country. One scrap of information relating to the Dalai Lama can land them in jail. No one is spared, not even the monks who have to face the worst of it sometimes.

“There is an AIDS epidemic in Tibet now. All the good things are reserved for the Chinese, including the top jobs.”

This should sound familiar to Indians who know their own history.

Does Shibayan think that his contribution will bring freedom to Tibet?

“It is a long road. I might not get to see a free Tibet in my lifetime, but I hope I can do my bit towards it”, he smiles.

You must be to comment.
  1. sonam

    Go Shibayan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Niha

    Keep up the good work Shibayan!!!! All for a Free Tibet!!!!

  3. Priyanka Borpujari

    Inspiring article. “Our’s is not to reason why; our’s is but to do or die.” Shibayan, you truly embody those words of action. All the best!

  4. Hirak Dutta

    Tibet Is A Free Nation And That’s A Truth Worth Fighting For. Am Always There For A Free Tibet.

  5. ishita chakravarty

    every cause needs people like shibayan. its inspiring to see how this man stands tall unflinchingly to face adversities. this is what real courage and determination is. one day shibayan’s dream and the dream of millions of tibetans WILL come true. the world shall see a free tibet and soon. reminds me of ernest hemingway’s dictum: “what a man can do and what a man can endure.”..very inspiring article.

  6. pankaj singh

    it ws an interstng piece…tibet’s concers hve chalkd out really well..n ys it gve sme valuable insight into the lyf of shibayan whch one hardly gts bcoz of hs closd prsonality whn it cms to tlk abt himslf..keep up the good work, bro..all the best!!

  7. Reeti

    A truly inspiring piece, told with great sensitivity. Keep up the good work!

  8. Rudrani

    Thanks, Reeti!

  9. Bhavita

    I was shocked. When I spoke to you over the phone, you sounded just like one of us — but u r the true role model of the youth today. Way to go Shibayan we have a lot to learn from you. I happen to be madly in love with Tibet —- Tibet will never ever die — cos of the Tibetan spirit, and the mighty human spirit

  10. Priyanka

    Ms. Dasgupta, a well-written article indeed.
    Dost, Shibayan when I met you I did respect you for the work you do for Tibet being an Indian and for your sheer guts and commitment. But over time, I have come to respect and admire you even more for the kind of person you are. I hope you find justice in your case and are always safe and happy! My prayers!

    I’m glad to have you as a friend!
    All the best and Keep smiling 🙂
    Priyanka / Dost

  11. Kamayani

    way to go Shibayan, wish i was there with flag outside taj…. in total agreement you cannot be FREE if others are oppressed…. LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI :-p

  12. Shibayan Raha

    Thanks to everyone for reading this and taking your time to write a comment.Appreciate from the bottom of my heart.

    and a special thanks to Rudrani and Youth ki Awaaz for carrying this story.

  13. Anshul Tewari

    Hi Shibayan,

    Glad to have you here at Youth Ki Awaaz. You surely are a youth icon. Do keep us updated with your awesome work at


    Anshul Tewari
    Founder and Editor in Chief
    Youth Ki Awaaz: Mouthpiece for the Youth

  14. Meghna

    Shibayan, you are truly an inspiration, an inspiration to fight for justice and to believe in a vision that can be opposed by a million. All I can say is good luck and one day we will see a Free Tibet! Bhod Gyalo!

  15. Deepak

    Good chhore ! Keep it up .

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