‘Tibetan Protestor Gets too Close to Zhu’
by Natasha Israni
(TheNewsPaperToday.com. January 16, 2002)
Tenzin Tsundue with the Tibetan national flag
'He was tall,
Like the Everest,
I climbed the Everest,
And I was taller,
My hands free'
(This little poem was written by Tenzin Tsundue while he was in
police custody, Cuff Parade Police Station, Bombay –
January 16th 2002)
Protests by Tibetans in Delhi and Mumbai against Chinese Premier
Zhu Rongji's visit to India and the Chinese occupation of Tibet
peaked in Mumbai on Wednesday morning.
Tibetan groups in Mumbai such as the Maharashtra Tibetan Refugee
Association and Friends of Tibet (INDIA) had earlier announced a
24-hour hunger strike at the Azad Maidan from the time the Chinese
Premier arrived in Mumbai on Tuesday and till he leaves on Wednesday
What the Tibetan spokespersons and their Indian supporters hadn't
made public, and perhaps weren't aware of themselves, was an attempt
by twenty-five-year-old Mumbai University student and Tibetan
expatriate Tenzin Tsundue, to highlight the cause of his people.
Tsundue, clad in jeans and a blue T-shirt, managed to reach the
12th Floor of the Oberoi Hotel, where the Chinese Premier and his
delegation are staying. Using one of the construction poles outside
the building as support, he rigged up a red banner with the logo
'Free Tibet' and waved the flag to a surprised lot of security
personnel, the Mumbai police force and casual bystanders.
The incident was all the more embarrassing for the Mumbai police
force as police commissioner MN Singh had, just a day earlier, stated
that the police was confident of keeping the Tibetan protesters
under control and would ensure that nothing out of the ordinary
happened. The drama at Oberoi Hotel lasted for almost an hour
— between 10 am and 11 am — before security personnel
climbed out of the windows, caught Tsundue and arrested him. 'It
was a one-man show. The idea and inspiration was Tenzin's alone. He
hadn't told anyone else about it. We think he might have managed to
go up via the service ladder, we're not sure,' said Aspi B Mistry,
a volunteer with the Friends of Tibet (INDIA), soon after the event.
Tsundue, who is the general secretary of the Friends of Tibet
(INDIA), is now believed to be at the Colaba or Cuffe Parade Police
station. He appears to have quite an individualistic trackrecord so
far — he won the 2001 Outlook Picador Award for non-fiction
for his collection of patriotic poems — 'Crossing the Border'
— which he published on his own in 1999 on a shoestring
budget while still pursuing an MA in English Literature at Mumbai
The poems depict the life of Tibetan refugees and are marked by the
experience of being born in exile and a yearning for his Himalayan
homeland. At present, Tsundue is pursuing a second MA — this
time in Philosophy — apart from his work for the Friends of
Tibet (INDIA) and the pursuance of a career as a writer.
Meanwhile, as part of the protests, around 500 Tibetan and Indian
supporters gathered at the Azad Maidan on Tuesday and spent the
night there. Out of these, 200 are on hunger strike. Last evening,
Yogesh Kamdar of the People's Union for Civil Liberties addressed
Tibetans at the Azad Maidan and issued a joint statement on behalf of
four non-governmental organisations — Indian Liberal Group,
Sarvodaya Movement, Citizens For Democracy and People's Union for
Civil Liberties — in support of the Tibetans on hunger strike
and their struggle for freedom from China.
Also, on Wednesday morning, while the Premier and his delegation
were on their way to the Prince of Wales Museum, South Mumbai,
another group of Tibetans staged protests in the Kalaghoda area
near the Jehangir Art Gallery. Some of them lay down on the road
while a few Tibetan women raced towards the gate of the Prince of
Wales Museum and were caught only after they had reached it. The
Mumbai police wasn't prepared to handle so many women protesters and
had to hurriedly call for more female police personnel. Concerning
possible arrests of Tibetan protesters, Sethu Das, Founder/President
Friends of Tibet (INDIA) said, 'I'm sure they are prepared for any
hardship when arrested.'