HYDERABAD: The exodus of Tibetans to India began with the Dalai Lama in 1959 but the present generation of Tibetans in the country are no different. Most of them, like the Dalai Lama, have left their motherland and crossed the border in what could only be described as a perilous journey. Upon arrival, safety is assured but they are haunted by the thought of the plight of their dear ones back home. The self-immolation by a 27-year-old Tibetan, Jamphel Yeshi, to protest the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao for the BRICS conference in New Delhi shows their frustration at the continuing “oppression” in Tibet.
Close to 50 students of Tibetan origin pursue their higher education in the city. Though not politically aligned to any organisation, the political awareness among the students is high. “We look forward to increasing awareness on the issue of a free Tibet and push the international community to support us by organising a peaceful cycle rally in a week’s time,” says Tsetsar, a student of B.Sc in St. Francis College for Women.
A friend of Tsetsar, Tenzin, however, has seen more. A first generation refugee, she fled Tibet as a 10 year-old with her uncles in 1999 and plans to complete her education and serve the cause of a free Tibet. “I have been unable to contact my family, who still live in Tibet, for close to four months now. The crackdown (by China in Tibet) has closed whatever channels of communication that existed. For fear of being monitored, no one speaks of the political or social condition with their relatives in Tibet and the conversation is limited to exchanging general pleasantries,” explains Tenzin, student at a city college. For fear of being traced, she refuses to share her full name or photograph. Prior to the crackdown, she used to be in touch with her family through the internet.
“Compared to Vijaywada and Karnataka, the Tibetan presence in Hyderabad is limited to students. Most of them are enrolled in nursing courses or study hotel management which leaves little time for the compatriots to meet up,” says Tsetsar whose parents live in Karnataka. The Tibetan refugee children finish their schooling mostly from the Tibetan Children’s Village School in Dharamshala where they are educated for free. For pursuing higher education, the organisation provides fellowships to the tune of `50,000 per annum based on merit.
“There isn’t much awareness in the city regarding the demands of the Tibetans in exile. However, we observe an increasing ideological support from local traders and manufacturers opposed to the idea of trade with China which is eating into their business. The common grounds for free Tibet group and the traders is boycotting the trade of made-in-China products,” observes Dr MN Rajesh, a faculty in the Department of History at the UoH and an active member of the Tibet support group in Hyderabad.
The cause for Tibet has support of non-Tibetans as well though the agenda is apolitical. “We want to bring consciousness about the issue in the community. A candle-light march was organised on Tibetan Uprising Day on March 10. So far, there have been close to 30 self-immolations in Tibet alone against the regime,” says Arnav Anjaria, a student at the UoH and an ex-member of the Students for a Free Tibet organisation.
For others from Tibet, Phayul.com, a news website is their barometer for events back home, as they finish their course and prepare for a better life, in service of Tibet.