‘The Tibetan Triangle’
by Major Geneal (Retd) Eustace D'Souza
(Freedom First. March, 2002)
"We in India who enjoy freedom must continue to support with vigour
the aspirations of the people of Tibet"
The recent visit of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji to India, including
Mumbai, is the raison d'être for this article, to remind readers
that the docile Tibetans, followers of Lord Gautama, are in serious
danger of ethnic cleansing in their own homeland, and their centuries
old culture systematically destroyed.The Chinese are going about
this pogrom with calculated and alarming persistence, precision
and planning while the so-called free world that cherishes its own
freedom, pays scant attention to the festering Tibetan problem. The
visit of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji to Mumbai provided an opportunity
for this docile and peace loving people that have sought refuge in
this land of Lord Buddha, to draw the attention of all lovers of
freedom and human rights, to their plight, through the Gandhian
method of non violent protest. One hopes that these peaceful
demonstrations of protest against the unabashed and ongoing rape of
this once peaceful and remote Shangri La, perched on the roof of the
world, will have impinged on not only China but also the free world.
Having faced and being engaged in four skirmishes with Communist
China's People's Liberation Army during the 1965 War along
the high altitude passes on the Sikkim watershed at Natu La,
Cho La, and Yak La, and being privy to the steady ethnic cleansing
of the Tibetans when a sub unit of his own battalion, the 1st Bn
The Maratha Light Infantry was the last to withdraw from Yatung
and Gyantse in 1955, this writer has been involved in the Friends
of Tibet movement in Mumbai, keen to associate himself with the
Tibetan freedom struggle Chinese protests notwithstanding.
His interest in this then mysterious Shangri La began in the
fifties when he read with much interest Heinrich Harrer and Peter
Aufschneiter's brilliant book 'Seven Years in Tibet'. He had of
course read reports of the 'European' invasion of this mysterious
land by Francis Younghusband who led a British/Indian force through
Natu La into Tibet establishing the British presence at Yatung,
Gyantse and Lhasa. As a regimental historian, he was also privy to
very sketchy reports of his own regiment's spells of duty in this
once 'forbidden' land.
In 1956, this writer recalls how he accompanied a small escort
with a Chinese prisoner who sought repatriation to China, after the
Korean Campaign under the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission
Scheme. It was in February, in the middle of winter where the only
access to Natu La, the handing over point, was over a narrow mule
track from mile 5 on what is now the Gangtok-Natu La highway.
No officer was allowed to accompany the party but this writer did so
in the uniform of a sepoy. To irritate the Chinese at the Pass,
the handing-over was deliberately delayed for four hours, to a
very irritated Chinese Political Officer dressed in immaculate
typical dark blue Chinese uniform and mounted on a caparisoned
sturdy Tibetan pony. The superciliousness of the Chinese Officer
was evident as he fretted and fumed over the delay.
During the 1965 War against Pakistan, this writer, then a Brigade
commander, encountered the PLA in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation
when the Chinese moved up 1000 men towards the Pass in an attempt
to relieve pressure on the beleaguered Pakistanis in the West.
When the Marathas at the Pass did not budge under intense provocation
after four skirmishes, quiet descended along the watershed except
for the ongoing proxy war. All this is by way of background. On
January 3, 1967, the Chinese, using bonded Tibetan labour joined
their side of Natu La with a motorable road from the road head in
the Chumbi Valley below. Since those days Tibet has undergone a sea
change. Using reprehensible means beyond the pale of human rights
at even the most basic level, the Chinese Government did all in
its power to settle the Han Chinese from Mainland China in Tibet
at the expense of the Tibetans. In this coldly calculated plan the
Tibetans (6 million) have been outnumbered by the mainland Chinese
(7 million), a situation that will be further aggravated when
the Gormu-Lhasa railway linking mainland China is completed.
It is on record that the Chinese President has stated that though the
construction of this rail link is uneconomical, it will be completed
and extended to Shigatse and then on to Sinkiang. The labour for this
project has been imported from China! Under the guise of improving
the lot of the locals of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region,
developmental activities are proudly shown to tourists as efforts
being made to improve the lot of the Tibetans. This is far from the
truth. These developmental activities are meant to enable China to
strengthen its stranglehold on this once peaceful land to a point
of no return. In doing so thousands of Tibetans have either lost
their lives or have sought refuge in India. The rest is history.
That the Chinese are most sensitive to any criticism of their hold
on Tibet, their human rights record and other illegal activities
as, for instance, using it as a dumping ground for nuclear waste,
is too well known to deserve recall. When such issues were raised
with a nine member high powered Chinese delegation at a seminar
held recently in the University town of Manipal in Karnataka,
the reaction of the delegation, when issues relating to Tibet was
raised, invariably drew violent reactions of protest. The rape of
Tibet, its age-old culture and its people continue, judging from
the number of ethnic Tibetans who escape to India. Their stories
record vividly the grossest violation of human rights and Chinese
sensitivity to any such references drawing strong protests.
When our Mumbai Tibetans held a silent and non-violent hunger strike
during the visit of Zhu Rongji, the Mumbai police were explicit in
prohibiting any demonstrations in areas being visited by the Chinese
Premier. However they were permitted to hold a hunger strike on Azad
Maidan where about 200 Tibetan protestors and their Indian friends
participated. In his brief address to the protestors, this writer
stressed the need never to give up hope. He drew attention to the
Tibetan flag with the rising sun as a sign of hope: the sun was not
setting but rising. Decrying the fact that the free west chose to
keep silent on the rape of Tibet, this writer suggested that the
only way to stimulate the involvement of the West in their freedom
struggle was to discover oil in Tibet!
The strong urge for justice and the return of freedom to this peace
loving people is so strong, that one young protestor, Tenzin Tsundue
managed to evade the strong police cordon at the Oberoi Towers in
which Zhu Rongji was residing, and clambering up to the tenth floor
unfurled a banner demand Tibetan freedom. as a striking and visible
form of protest.
It is time that we let the world know that those fleeing Tibet
including the Dalai Lama have been given ready refuge in India and
that under Indian law they are permitted to demonstrate within the
requirements of security and diplomatic convention.
It would be an interesting exercise to ascertain the wishes of
the Tibetan people through a neutral body under UN auspices to
determine whether these peace loving people want Independence or
wish to remain under Chinese rule.
We in India who enjoy freedom must continue to support with vigour
the aspirations of the people of Tibet.
For its part, Freedom First has, time and again, drawn the attention
of its readers to the continuing rape of Tibet and the systematic
destruction of the culture and the people of Tibet.