By N.S.Venkataraman

CHENNAI, Jan 22: More than six decades have gone after China forcibly entered Tibet and occupied the land and unjustifiably claimed that Tibet belongs to it. His Holiness the Dalai Lama had no alternative other than leaving Tibet with his disciples and he entered Indian territory on 31st March, 1959.

When China occupied Tibet, India led by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru just kept watching and did nothing to stop China from its aggressive move. Obviously, Nehru was very friendly at that time with the Chinese government and he did not want to upset China by commenting on China’s occupation of Tibet. While Nehru took such stand, there were many sane voices in India who felt concerned about the inaction of Jawaharlal Nehru and reminded him that he was doing a historical mistake.

The fact is that the Jawaharlal Nehru not only kept silent but also virtually recognized the occupation of Tibet by China. If he would not combat China on the Tibetan issue, he could have at least refrained from providing recognition for China’s occupation of Tibet.

History is certainly pointing to Jawaharlal Nehru for this lapse and many Indians continue to express their anguish about this.

It is now a matter of speculation whether India had the military strength at that time to combat China. When India just remained silent, the rest of the world thought that China could have a case in occupying, though western countries made some protest noise which appeared to be a cosmetic exercise even at that time.

At that time when China occupied Tibet, China certainly did not have the type of military or economic strength that it now possesses. Certainly, if western countries were to have interfered to stop China from it’s heinous act, things could have been different. The net result was that Tibet went under China and China had the last laugh.

However, the silence of Jawaharlal Nehru while Tibet was suffering disturbed the conscience of a large segment of Indians and such disturbed conscience state amongst Indians continue till today.

Jawaharlal Nehru was a great historian and a scholar who would have certainly known about the great traditions and the value systems that the Tibetans cherished. He certainly failed the conscience of India and perhaps, conscience of Nehru also might have disturbed him.

This explains the fact that when the Dalai Lama and his disciples entered India, practically no restriction was placed by Jawaharlal Nehru and Tibetans were allowed to settle down with refugee status. Though Nehru placed restrictions on Tibetans that they should not indulge in politics, in practical terms government largely ignored or allowed the protests by Tibetans against the Chinese occupation of their dear country.

The Dalai Lama was treated with the respect that he deserves and was allowed to travel all over India, meet people and attend programmes and meetings. He was also later on allowed to go abroad and convey to the rest of the world about the harm done to Tibet by China. The Tibet government in exile was allowed to be formed in Indian territory and the Central Tibetan administration have a number of office bearers including the Prime Minister in exile.

Jawaharlal Nehru and subsequent governments did not accede to the demand of China that the movement of the Dalai Lama and Tibetans in India should be restricted. While the Indian government was certainly guilty of remaining silent over China’s occupation of Tibet, it tried to make amends to it’s grave mistake by standing up to China and treating the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans in India with dignity.

Coming to the question whether India has done enough for Tibet’s cause, the fact is that the present approach of Indian government towards the Tibetan cause is similar to the act of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Obviously, the present government of India seems to think that the occupation of Tibet should have been prevented from happening but it’s sympathy for the cause of Tibetans now appears to be too late.

The ball is in the court of Tibetans and it is for them to chart their course of action, utilizing the goodwill that they enjoy in India and in several parts of the world.

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the “Nandini Voice for the Deprived,” a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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