“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me. I am a free human being with an independent will.”
To be physically free is one thing; but to be able to assert that freedom in every imaginable sense, quite another. Jane Eyre’s words, penned by Charlotte Bronte, continue to haunt us even today.
Ugyan’s parents were born in India. His grandparents fled from Tibet when China invaded Tibet in the 1950s. The couple took shelter in India, and their children were born by the roadside in the Kullu Manali region. Ugyan’s voice, heavy with emotion during the telephonic conversation with our correspondent, betrayed a deep sense of nostalgia for a place that he has never been to. For his parents, getting Ugyan educated was the primary goal, because they spent a large part of their lives working as construction workers in the high altitude regions of India, and therefore being deprived of comforts that one often dreams of. In that they have been successful — Ugyan, today, is a research scholar in Jawaharlal Nehru University — he is pursuing his M.Phil from the School of International Studies. He was born, brought up and educated in India. However, the longing for the land of his dreams, a land that is his, only in spirit and not in real, measurable terms, continues to haunt him. Tibetans, residing in the city, once again raised their voice in protest to greet Xi Jinping, President of the Republic of China, on his diplomatic visit to India. Members of the Tibeten Youth Congress and Students for Free Tibet, along with others, participated in these largely peaceful and non-violent demonstrations for the last couple of days. Words are arbitrary; words can coax and coerce; words can hoodwink and brainwash. We will, for this story at least, steer clear of words, and let pictures do the talking. The pictures portray different hues of the protest and the protestors, taken over the last couple of days in different pockets of Delhi, including the Taj Palace, Chanakyapuri, where President Xi Jinping was putting up, and Hyderabad Bhavan.
“Our protests were non violent and peaceful”, asserted Tenzing Jigme, President, Tibetan Youth Congress, in a telephonic interview with our correspondent, “but as many as 78 of our members have been put behind bars. Even as I talk to you now, I am on my way to a police station. I have been visiting these young people who are now in custody for allegedly trying to break the law and order of the country.” Jigme was born in Nepal, but he studied in St. Joseph’s School, North Point, Darjeeling. He lived in USA for fifteen years after his schooling, before returning to India last June. His heart bleeds for his country. Tibet is a victim of one of the most controversial forms of colonization in modern times, but Jigme has faith in the new government of India. He places his hope in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, to engage in diplomatic negotiations with China so as to secure not only India’s position vis-Ã -vis her neighbouring country but also to help Tibet in a positive, significant way. “These young people who are tirelessly striving to achieve freedom for their country inspire me daily”, smiles Jigme, even amidst adversity. “I see them taking responsibility, I see them leading a movement and I remind myself everyday that we need to make sacrifices in order to gain something concrete.”
Indian and Chinese troops remain locked on the borders, suspicious of each other, even as the President of one country makes a courtesy call to the Premier of the other. Here’s hoping something positive emerges from this meeting — because hope is what keeps us alive. Hope is what has kept their struggle to free Tibet alive. Indeed, a nation is not only a defined geographical and political space. It is a spiritual landscape that binds people — people living in exile in different parts of the world.
“Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high,
where knowledge is free.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it’s way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever widening thought and action.
In to that heaven of freedom, my father,
Let my country awake!”
May Tagore’s words, which once helped to awaken the conscience of a nation, be the guiding light in present, troubled times! May the forces be with the oppressed! And as the protestors cry, Bhod Gyalo! Freedom to Tibet! Freedom to all!