Thursday, October 4, 2012





The Tibetan tragedy continues. On October 4,2012, a 41-year-old Tibetan burnt himself to death at Driru [in Chinese, Biru] county in the Nagchu prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).This is the second self-immolation attempt reported within a week. The earlier attempt was reported from Sichuan on September 29,2012. In the earlier incident, the fire was put out by the police and the man taken away by them. It is not yet known whether he survived the burns.

2. Since the wave of self-immolations demanding freedom for the Tibetan areas of China and for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet started in March last year in the Kirti monastery of the Sichuan province, the incident of October 4,2012, is the 53rd self-immolation. Of these, 48 have taken place in the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai and five in the TAR.

3. According to a report disseminated by the US Congress funded Radio Free Asia, Gudrub, who died on October 4,2012, had returned to Tibet from Dharamshala in India in 2005.He  left a  statement, titled “Brotherly Love,” on China’s online network calling on Tibetans to  maintain their unity and courage in the face of China’s rule in Tibetan regions. The statement said: “If we reflect on the past, we can see nothing but signs of defeat, anger, anguish, and tears. I pray that you all have good health and success in the coming new year of the Water Dragon. At the same time, I appeal to you to foster unity and solidarity, and to not lose courage in spite of the defeat and loss that we face.”

4.The two incidents were reported immediately after an appeal to the Tibetans in China issued from Dharamshala on September 27,2012, by a group of 400 Tibetan exiles from all over the world not to resort to the extreme step of self-immolation to express their unhappiness over the continued occupation of Tibet by the Chinese. The Tibetan exiles had met for four days from September 24,2012, to discuss the situation inside Tibet in the light of the continuing self-immolations, to analyse the likely policies of the new Chinese leadership headed by Mr.Xi Jinping which would be taking over from the outgoing leadership headed by Mr.Hu Jintao at the 18th Party Congress starting in Beijing on November 8,2012, and to discuss the future options available to the Tibetan people.

5.The appeal expressed   the “grave concern” of the exiles  over the burnings and urged Tibetans inside Tibet not to take “drastic actions.” It said: “Tibet is a thinly populated country, and in the present situation losing even one life is a great loss for the Tibetan people. Please preserve your lives in the future.”

6.The Tibetan, who attempted self-immolation on September 29,2012, might not have been aware of the appeal, but the person who burnt himself to death in the TAR on October 4 would have been aware. The fact that despite the appeal from Dharamshala he burnt himself to death shows that the appeal has had no impact inside Tibet and that the “Self-immolation For Freedom” movement has acquired a self-sustaining momentum of its own due to the desperate human rights situation inside Tibet.

7.The desperation is growing due to the increasingly muted expressions of concern by the international community over the human rights situation in the Tibetan areas in general and over the spontaneous self-immolation movement in particular.

8.During the current Presidential campaign in the US, Mr.Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, has been raising off and on the adverse impact of the Chinese economy on the US economy, but references to the violations of the human rights of the Tibetans and the self-immolations have been absent.

9.During the Presidential debate on October 4,2012, Mr.Romney twice referred in passing to the adverse impact of the Chinese economy on the US economy, but Mr.Obama chose to remain silent. The next debate will be on foreign policy, but it is doubtful whether Tibet would figure in the debate unless Mr.Romney raises the issue on the advice of his aides.

10.The mood of desperation due to the silence of the international community in general and the US in particular seems to be driving more Tibetans to the extreme step of  self-immolation  disregarding the appeal from Dharamshala not to burn themselves to death.

11.The Dharamshala meeting of the representatives of the exiles was also reported to have done a brain-storming on the likely policies of the new Chinese leadership towards Tibet. The only straw of hope for the Tibetans is that unlike Mr.Hu, who spent the early part of his party career suppressing the Tibetans in the TAR, Mr.Xi, who reportedly comes from a family which had suffered the harsh repressive policies under Mao Zedong and during the Cultural Revolution might be a little more nuanced in his attitude to the Tibetans.

12.Even though Mr.Xi will take over the party leadership on November 8, he will take over the State leadership as the President of China only during the meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in March next. It is not yet known when Mr.Hu will hand over to him the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission of the Party which controls the PLA. It is premature to expect any initiatives on Tibet from Mr.Xi till he feels himself firmly in the saddle in respect of the party, the State and the Central Military Commission. The desperation of the Tibetans will continue to rise.

13.How to address this desperation, how to keep the Tibetan issue alive and active and how to re-energise the conscience of the international community on the Tibetan issue? These were the questions  discussed at the Dharamshala meeting by the exiles and a set of recommendations was made to the Tibetan Government-in-exile.

14. A statement issued at the end of the Dharamshala meeting said: “The meeting resolved to pursue the Middle Way (autonomy and not independence) policy to find a meaningful solution through dialogue with the Chinese Government.” It also called on the  government-in-exile to raise awareness of the Middle Way policy and its proposals among the Chinese people themselves. It  added that consistent appeals for support should also be made to the United Nations, the European Union, and other world bodies. The meeting appealed to the new Chinese leadership to end Beijing’s hardline policies towards Tibet.

15. Thus, a three-pronged policy is proposed to be followed: firstly, keep the peaceful  satyagraha for preserving the Tibetan identity in the Tibetan areas alive while trying to persuade the desperate elements not to resort to self-immolation, secondly, re-energise international support for the Tibetan cause and , thirdly, appeal to the new Chinese leadership to jettison the hardline policies of the outgoing leadership headed by Mr.Hu.( 5-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)










































































































The new strategy to be worked out should focus not on the past misdeeds of NaMo, but on the future misdeeds that are likely to be committed by these elements if their methods succeed.

---From my article of June 4,2012, titled “ A Wake-up Call” at


The dates for the elections to the Gujarat State Assembly in December have been announced. Even before the announcement, Shri Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister, had started his election campaign on the ground in the State as well as in cyber space with the help of some NRIs based in the US.

2. The elements supporting NaMo, including some NRIs, have drawn up a strategy for ensuring a sizable victory of NaMo in the Gujarat elections and subsequently using the victory as a stepping stone for forcing NaMo as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP and the NDA coalition headed by the BJP. The influence of the NRI elements on the strategy of this “NaMo for Prime Minister” drive would be evident from the fact that while the BJP and its coalition partners have been critical of some of the economic reforms recently introduced by Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, these NRI elements, which are strongly in favour of these reforms, have been playing down any criticism of it. Their pro-corporate and pro-US business interest agenda will be evident from their double-talk on the question of allowing FDI in multi-brand retail.

3.As part of their “NaMo for PM” drive, these elements have been trying to transform the election campaign in Gujarat from a purely provincial campaign for the re-election of NaMo on the basis of his record into the beginning of a pan-Indian campaign for paving the way for the ascendency of NaMo as the Prime Minister when the next elections to the Lok Sabha are held.

4. They have been taken aback by the recent statements of Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, on the need for a secular leader to be the head of any future NDA Government and of Shri L.K.Advani on the importance of secularism as a principle. These elements are trying to work out a strategy to counter these developments.

5.In their attempts to give NaMo a larger than provincial image without creating suspicions in the minds of the supporters of Shri Advani and Shri Nitish Kumar, they have been cleverly trying to transform the Gujarat campaign into a political contest of image and will between NaMo and Mrs.Sonia Gandhi. The absurdly exaggerated allegations regarding the expenditure incurred by Mrs.Sonia Gandhi on her foreign travels since 2004 made by NaMo on the basis of a report disseminated by a news agency of unclear background are part of the strategy worked out by these elements to force Mrs.Sonia Gandhi to enter the battle arena as the principal opponent of NaMo.

6. The Congress has done well not to fall into this trap and not to unwittingly transform a purely provincial campaign into a prelude for a national contest. The Gujarat poll should remain what it is----a purely provincial poll based on the record of NaMo and on the future programmes of the Gujarat units of the Congress and the BJP. If NaMo wins the polls and continues as CM for a third term, so be it. He and his supporters should not be allowed to use the provincial poll results as sanctifying his aspirations for becoming the Prime Minister of India.

7.The Gujarat unit of the Congress and its leaders should be in the forefront of the election campaign to counter NaMo. Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and other central leaders should restrict their role to giving the  required moral  and political support to the Gujarat leaders and occasionally campaigning in carefully selected areas to weaken the pan-Indian pretensions of NaMo.

8.While the Congress leadership has taken the right decision not to raise past issues relating to the period before 2007, it should focus on the post-2007 record of the NaMo Government, the continuing lack of trust of the religious minorities in NaMo as a leader and the dubious role of NRI elements in backing NaMo’s drive for continued power.

9.While the Congress has every right to ignore the politically motivated allegations of NaMo regarding Mrs.Sonia Gandhi’s foreign travels, it should reply promptly to the petition from an RTI activist for information on this subject. This activist has no political background or agenda and delaying a reply to him is already proving counter-productive. The Congress should simultaneously focus the spotlight on a petition reportedly filed in July 2007 by another RTI activist Ms Trupti Shah asking for details of expenditure incurred by NaMo in connection with some of his travels during the Women Empowerment Sammelans. A reference to her petition allegedly ignored by the NaMo Government has been made by “The Hindu” of October 3,2012, ( 4-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)