Imagination and Real Tibet
(Community Centre, Dharamsala | May 22, 2004)

Imagination And Real Tibet Dharamshala: Quite often our imagination rules our perspectives and we go to believe our imagination. The indulgence is hugely attractive and an easy pillow for the lazy. A good study of the matter frees you from the illusions, old and outdated clichéd stigma, and gives you a feel of the ground.

On May 22, 2004, Friends of Tibet (INDIA) organised "Imagination & Real Tibet" — a panel discussion led by three researchers on Tibet and screened the documentary film: "The Power of Truth: According to the Dalai Lama" (Courtesy: Irene Greve) at the Community Centre, McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala. The penal discussion facilitated by Jampa Monlam (Born and brought up in Tibet and later escaped into India. He works with the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Dharamshala; Tsering Yankgyi (Former researcher with the Environment Desk, Tibetan Government-in-Exile) and Dawa Tsering (Educated in Tibet and worked as a policeman till his escape into exile in 1992. Since then he heads the China Desk at the Department of Information and International Relations, Tibetan Government-in-Exile) was moderated by Tenzin Tsundue, poet and General Secretary of Friends of Tibet.

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About 200 Tibetans and Tibet supporters gathered yesterday here at the Community Centre, Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala to test their imagination, and for a reality check. Tenzin Tsundue, General Secretary of Friends of Tibet welcomed the gathering and introduced the young Tibetans who are engaged in research work in different fields. While explaining the motive behind organising such a meet he said "most often we create our own imagination, and later we start to believe that, that becomes dangerous, as we remain far from reality. It is neither good for any policy making nor is it good for one health. Particularly on the Tibetan issue, if we do not know what the reality is in Tibet, we will not be able to support what our brethrens are doing behind the Himalayas."

The public gathering began with the film "The Power of Truth: According to the Dalai Lama". Quite a recent film by Irene Greve tells two stories — one a visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Denmark and the other the filmmaker's trip to Tibet, showing some of the latest images of Tibet. Irene goes on with juxtapose — "developmental schemes of China in Tibet and its adverse effect on Tibetan environment and the culture of the Himalayan country".

This provoked enough questions in public mind. Ven Ngawang from the Tibet Information Network (TIN), one of the facilitators raised concerns about the "deforestation" schemes. She said "China pays the farmers in grains, for 3-5 years in exchange for their traditional farming land. Her question was, what would the farmers eat after the grains get over in 3-5 years? This is China's effort in displacing the Tibetans and putting them out of the traditional way of life.

"So long as you are not a trouble maker or Dalai Lama's man, no policeman or any authority would come after you," said Dawa Tsering formerly working as police officer in Tibet. "If you do not protest and remain silent no one would trouble you in Tibet" reassured Dawa.

"Then why did you escape Tibet?" asked a young Tibetan who introduced himself as a graduate from a Bangalore college. "I was working as a police officer, but deep in my mind I was always concerned about the future of Tibet. When I heard about the guerilla warfare being organised by Tibetan Khampas in India, I decided to come out." My imagination of exile community was different from the one I landed myself into here in India.

In another question about the "Chang" race, he said Chang was originally Tibetan practicing Bon religion. Slowly they had Chinese language influence. Today, they speak Chinese language, now they recognise themselves as Chinese. China had this grand scheme to categorise Tibetans into different tribes, and also the indoctrination tactic, thereby creating disunity. Today, there are many pockets of such tribes like the "thuzuja" in eastern Tibet. This is a difficult area to negotiate.

Jampa Monlam from Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) talked about the registration card, called "themtho". This is issued to all the residents, China in their attempts to allow more Chinese to settle in cities like Lhasa, they bend this rule, now they have started issuing new registration cards. On the pretext that there aren't skilled workers in Tibet, they are able to bring in more Chinese from the mainland and take away the employment opportunities from the Tibetans.

The discussion went for over an hour, and still the questions and comments kept on coming. The organisers called it a day, and more next time.

'Imagination And Real Tibet' was organised by Friends of Tibet (INDIA) at the Community Centre, McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala on May 22, 2004.