Five lessons to learn from the Tibetan protests

RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: When I saw the water-tight security for Chinese premier Wen Jiabao‘s visit to the Indian Institute of Science two Aprils ago, and when I saw Tenzin Tsundue clamber atop the IISc towers despite it, I wondered what lessons there were for India and Indians.

This week, after seeing the protests in London, Paris and San Franciso on TV, as the Olympic torch made its way, I have been convinced:

Lesson # 1 Even the most romantic Tibetan knows that a “Free Tibet” is a lost cause. Even the Dalai Lama concedes that his country’s future is as a province of China. Yet, the fact that Tibetans, even after a generation or two after their exile from Tibet, have managed to keep the flame burning in their hearts is a lesson to many of us who are so eager to forget.

Lesson # 2 We now live in a time where  language, culture and tradition have become a licence to vandalise public property and target private individuals. Yet to see the Tibetans going about their struggle for their language, culture and tradition protests without harming anybody and with the sole intention of drawing the world’s attention is a lesson.

Lesson # 3 While the Olympic torch protests are fetching their plight international exposure, the truth is the gain is momentary. We can only guess how the Chinese will respond once the Olympics end. Yet, the Tibetans have been brave enough to go ahead with their struggle for their culture, language and tradition unmindful of the consequences.

Lesson # 4 After the protests broke, the Chinese have called Dalai Lama “a serial liar” “pretending to be a peaceful, angel-like figure” and accused his “clique” of being the mastermind. Yet the spiritual leader has not lost his trademark sense of humour in what must be very testing times. “They can examine my pulse, my urine, my stool, everything,” he said,  accompanied by colourful miming of the actions.

Lesson # 5 Tibet is a small country of no more than 50 lakh people. The number of refugees in India, Nepal and Bhutan is about 2 lakh. Yet the fact that they have managed to rattle an “Asian tiger” whose population is well over 1.3 billion shows that might isn’t always right, and size doesn’t always matter.

In that, there is a small lesson for all of us who give up so easily at the slightest response from the other side.

In that, there is a small lesson for India itself.

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