Self-Immolations In Tibet: How Many More Lives Are We Going To Lose?

Posted on February 25, 2013 in GlobeScope

By Bini Mishra:

Where sadness of living is more painful than death,
Where the bursting storm determines the direction of wind
Where dark shadows haunt souls of innocence

Self-immolation as a form of protest or suicide that has taken the form of severe political protest in the modern times on behalf of a collective cause. Self-immolation began as a form of protest among Tibetans in China in February 2009, when a young monk set himself on fire in Aba. It reached the 100th mark with Lobsang Namgyal, a serious and exceptional scholar in his late thirties setting himself on fire inside the PRC.


This act of self-immolation has become the signature tactic for the oppressed Tibetans to show their resistance and frustration against the autocratic Chinese rule. While the Tibetans blame massive failure of Chinese policies in Tibet, the world is bound to witness a country driven by economic marginalisation, political oppression, cultural assimilation, social discrimination and environment degradation, making it very clear that China wants Tibet and not the Tibetan people.

Does this indicate that China does not value human life? The reaction of the Chinese authorities towards the immolations has been predictable. China continues to blame the exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama for inciting people and instigating them despite the presence of harsh security measures inside the land-locked country as against the famous fact that the Buddhist monk has long opted for a middle path of dialogues, non-violent measures and even urged the Tibetans not to go for such severe steps. Instant and ruthless arrests and media blackouts are results of resistance to Beijing. The international reaction to the saddening events has been muted due to strict restrictions that have barred the foreign journalists from reporting in the area. The governments of Nepal and India playing awkward hosts to generations of Tibetan exiles and dissidents, routinely crack the whip on these activists, breaking up the protests and monitoring exile activity. Geopolitical conflagrations elsewhere – from the Senkaku Islands contested by Tokyo and Beijing to the South China Sea to NATO’s imbroglio in Afghanistan – have cornered the international community’s attention. Zeroing down on the main reason of the disturbance, it is the Chinese principle that there can be no two suns in one land- the Chinese communist party and Tibetan Buddhism. The Chinese rulers continue to be intolerant, arrogant and chauvinistic, tagging the Tibetans as “dangerous people”.

Self- immolation has been particularly vulnerable to the law of diminishing returns in terms of effectiveness. For Stalin, a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. Gradually the protest is becoming a futile waste of human lives. It is time the real awakening takes place and brings an end to the oppression of Tibetan people- for the miracle is eagerly awaited.