Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Great Game

Indo-Sino-Himalayan Intrigue!
Siddhbari and Dharamsala, India

Why would the Himachal Pradesh monastery of  revered Tibetan lama HH Gyalwa Karmapa house a reported $1.6 million in various foreign currencies, including enormous amounts of Chinese yuan - why, except that the Karmapa must be "a Chinese spy"?

The traditional South Asian paranoia of the dreaded "foreign hand" has again reared its ugly sira in the Himachal police's January 27 raid on Gyuto Monastery, home to the Karmapa lama since he fled Chinese-controlled Tibet in 2000 at the age of fourteen.  Xenophobia, coupled with resentment and jealousy of the tremendous international money and attention focused on India's Tibetan refugees, would appear to be at the root of the Himachal state government's vitriolic attack on the Tibetan community. 
Despite their dispossessed status, the community and its religious institutions have brought Himachal Pradesh untold millions in tourist revenue.

Might the cash stash be explained by the fact that Karmapa's Kagyu denomination of Buddhists had only recently (December 22, 2010) concluded the enormous Kagyu Monlam international prayer festival, which draws donations from devotees and Buddhist foundations spanning the globe?  And could the Chinese yuan be explained by the fact that Karmapa has a sizeable Chinese devotee base? 

Unlike the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa is officially recognized by Beijing, even considering Karmapa's escape to India.   The annual Kagyu Monlam in Bodh Gaya is dominated by Chinese devotees, as anyone who's tried to find a seat under the otherwise-serene Bodhi Tree without getting elbowed by them can tell you.  (Also, visiting Tibetans from across the border give donations in Chinese currency.)

Nope, that's too simple, too easy - and far too logical. Karmapa must be "a Chinese spy."  This is the type of illogical elaboration that in the past led Indians to create mind-boggling, fantastically embellished art forms.  The results aren't so enthralling in realpolitik.

Today's news shows that Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal is busy setting up intelligence cells to monitor the activities of the state's Tibetan population, which number in the thousands (India's Tibetan population in all states totals 94,200). Spying on the state's most prosperous community will surely lead to more troves of treasure. Tibetans have also been told to "stop protesting" and peacefully assembling and ordered to cooperate with the state's investigations.

Indians often wonder aloud why Tibetans don't just get with the program and become Indian citizens. This just wasn't possible, until very recently, when the Delhi High Court ruled that a Himachal Tibetan woman's application for citizenship must be honoured.  (The judge also ruled that a previously established policy denying Indian citizenship "by naturalisation under Section 6 (1) of the Citizenship Act to the Tibetans who entered India after March 1959 is erroneous and hereby quashed."  This would seem to open the door for Tibetans desiring enfranchised citizenship within India.)

Therefore, Tibetans are poised to become an integrated part of India. Dhumal's accusation puts Himachal behind the Indian national curve.

Not surprisingly, the most sensible statements are coming from the ever-unshakeable Karmapa himself.  His statement of February 2: 
“India had become a second homeland to the Tibetans. We all have taken refuge and settled here. The country, in contrast to communist China, is a democratic country that is based on the rule of law. Therefore, I trust that things will improve and truth will become clear in time. So please be at ease. There is no need to worry,” the Karmapa said.

And I believe him.  This type of malicious attack belongs to the backbiting India of yesterday, a nation so insecure that it saw enemies in the corners of its own eyes. India's embrace (albeit sometimes theoretical) of Tibetans, allotted by the idealist Nehru, set an international example.  The medieval accusations of  the Himachal government won't bear the scrutiny of modern light.

"Let the investigating agencies do their work. Truth will prevail."

No comments: