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Asia

Tibetan Youth is Restless

A new breed of young Tibetans have joined the struggle to fight for a separate homeland. This newfound dynamism and impatience is evident in large parts of Dharmsala, the capital of the Tibetan government-in-exile, many who are eager to push ahead with the movement at the earliest.

An exile Tibetan gets his face painted for a protest march in Dharmsala, India

An exile Tibetan gets his face painted for a protest march in Dharmsala, India

Outside the Namgyal Monastery in McLeodganj, a few kilometres from the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Dharamsala, a large group of Tibetan youth are on a relay hunger strike. The strike has been continuing for the last four months to highlight China's hosting of the Olympics in August but more importantly to attract attention to their cause of a free Tibet.

For decades now the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, has symbolized the struggle for a free Tibet having kept the issue alive on the international stage through non-violent means.

But the levers of the Tibetan struggle seem to be shifting as a younger and a more self-confident generation of Tibetan youth have joined the fight even as they continue to hold the Dalai Lama in utter reverence.

Mood of defiance

Voicing the restiveness of a new generation, who have joined the struggle is Tenzing Dolkar Phunstok, the vice-president of the Tibetan Woman’s Association. She says the people are impatient and willing to join protests at an instant.

"The Olympics itself has become a very good platform for all Tibetans to come together to bring up the struggle to get independence. It has become a very good platform for Tibetan youngsters and the fire is still there ... You just have to light it up. The fire is there in everybody's heart right now. Because everybody is thinking of Tibet, everybody is talking of Tibet. I think it will take little time but I think everybody will come together."

Buoyed by news of an uprising in Lhasa and other parts of China and even outside Tibet in March, many among the exiled Tibetan youth who took part believe the day is not far when they would set foot in Lhasa and reclaim their ancestral homes. The mood is one not just of optimism but of defiance.

New movement launched

Phunstok Chompel, one of the leaders of the Tibetan youth congress says there is new vigour in their movement.

"We are not asking for new Independence, actually we are asking for the restoration of our lost Independence. So the Olympics are just a milestone to remind the Chinese that we are still struggling for the restoration of our lost Independence. The freedom struggle itself is like for every Tibetan, unless the last surviving Tibetan gets it, the freedom struggle will keep going."

Apart from the flare-up in Tibet itself, for the first time five key NGOs -- the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Women's Association, the Gu Chu Sum Former Political Prisoners Association, the National Democratic Party of Tibet, and the Students for Free Tibet -- who represent the Tibetan diasporas have come together as the Tibetan People's Uprising Movement.

Resentment grows

Thubten Samphel, a key official in the central Tibetan administration says the feeling among the Tibetans is getting stronger.

"Regardless of the Games, as long as the Chinese government has this tunnel vision that everything they do is right and they can disregard the opinion or the thinking of the Tibetan people ... And if they continue with this then the issue of Tibet will remain and the feeling of the Tibetan people is very strong."

And when the march began on March 10, Dharamsala was swept by waves of demonstrations and prayer meetings at which hundreds, sometimes thousands, turned up.

Clearly, the Tibetan struggle has entered a new phase where young leaders have found a new zeal and with fire still in their belly.

  • Date 25.07.2008
  • Author Murali Krishnan (tgb) 25/07/08
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  • Date 25.07.2008
  • Author Murali Krishnan (tgb) 25/07/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsLV