July 5, 2007Foreign Affairs

Mr Ram does a hatchet job on the Dalai Lama

A thank you note to his Chinese hosts

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Periodic indoctrination (and re-education for recalcitrants) is in the scheme of things in countries ruled by Communist parties. Reading his attack on the Dalai Lama in The Hindu yesterday, it looks like N Ram has just returned from one in China. The Dalai Lama’s principal fault, according to Mr Ram, is that he is seeking independence for Tibet.

Dissect the article and Mr Ram’s biases become apparent:

while the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation belongs to the mystical-religious realm and asks a lot from 21st century believers, the Dalai Lama’s approach even to rebirth is decidedly ideological-political.

Twenty-first century believers are asked to believe in a lot of things: the relevance of communism, or socialism with Chinese characteristics, China’s peaceful rise” or for that matter, The Hindu being India’s national newspaper’.

As for grounds for selecting his reincarnation, the decision is entirely the current Dalai Lama’s. What grounds he uses—and no succession is free from politics—is his business. A reasonable conclusion to make is that the Dalai Lama is a political leader. Why should that be wrong?

Historical records show that the institution of the Dalai Lama as an incarnate’ politico-religious supremo recognised and empowered by the Chinese central government” began in the middle of the 17th century,

Notice the clever use of the word central’ instead of imperial’. There was no central’ government in China in the 17th century—there was an imperial one. Empires—Chinese ones especially—operate quite differently from central’ governments. Going by Mr Ram’s definition, much of continental South East Asia and Korea must belong to China.

Even if we were to accept Mr Ram’s version of history, it is possible to construct a legal argument that challenges the People’s Republic’s claim to Tibet. Since the Chinese empire was succeeded by the Republic of China, currently based in Taiwan, it is Taipei that should do the recognition business.

This problematical side is a function of the interplay of a host of subjective and objective factors. They are the Dalai Lama’s religious charisma combined with the iconic international status of Tibetan Buddhism; his long-lastingness and tenacity; his alignment with colonial interests and western powers and the ideological-political purposes he has served over half a century; his considerable wealth and global investments, and resources mobilised from the Tibetan diaspora in various countries; the grievous cultural and human damage done in Tibet, as in the rest of China, during the decade of the Cultural Revolution’ (1966-1976); the nature of the independence for Tibet’ movement that has rallied round the person and office of the Dalai Lama and follows anything but the Buddhist Middle Way’; the links and synergies he has established with Hollywood, the media, legislators, and other influential constituencies in the west; and, most troubling from a progressive Indian standpoint, the reality of a continuing Indian base of operations for the Tibetan government-in-exile’.

Shorn of the verbosity, Mr Ram is saying that the rich, subborn old man is supported by democracies, is popular with the West and refuses to die.

If he were just a pre-eminent religious leader, there would be no problem in accommodating him within the constitutional framework that guarantees religious freedom to all citizens and regional autonomy to ethnic minorities in extensive parts of a giant country.

Note: the giant country he’s talking about is China.

Equally important, he has repeatedly spoken of six million Tibetans.’ He has falsely accused China of rendering Tibetans, through a state-sponsored policy of population transfer and Hanisation, into a minority’ in their own land. The plain truth, borne out by official censuses and easily verifiable by foreign observers and experts, is that Tibetans constitute more than 92 per cent of the population of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

This would require the reader to either be very credulous, or make a trip to Tibet to do a headcount, permission for which is likely to be denied.

The Dalai Lama has even accused the Chinese socialist state of unleashing a holocaust’ and exterminating more than a million Tibetans.

Anyone who saw that video of Chinese soldiers gunning down fleeing Tibetans recently should have little trouble accepting that the Dalai Lama’s accusation might have a grain of truth. Way back in 1959, the International Council of Jurists noted there was a prima facie case of genocide’ in Tibet. The Dalai Lama’s accusations are substantiated by this list of books, from various authors. The only defence Mr Ram can cite would come from those official censuses again.

If the 14th Dalai Lama has his way, a single de-Hanised’ administrative unit, which will be formed by breaking up four Chinese provinces, will appropriate one-fourth of China’s territory instead of the one-eighth covered by TAR.

The fact that Mr Ram conveniently ignores is that the four Chinese provinces were created by absorbing the erstwhile Tibetan provinces, and that they were integrated” through a programme of deliberate transmigration.

There have been other political provocations under the guise of exercising traditional religious authority. On May 14, 1995, in a pre-emptive bid, the Dalai Lama in exile in India recognised the boy Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, sight unseen of course, as the 11th Panchen Lama. However, in December 1995, the Chinese central government, going by centuries-old custom and tradition that empower it to recognise and appoint both the Dalai and the Panchen Lama, approved the enthronement of Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Erdeni.

When the central’ government appoints someone, it is going by centuries-old’ custom, but when the Dalai Lama does so, it is a pre-emptive’ move and a provocation under the guise of exercising religious authority’. Here Mr Ram contradicts himself: if he and his principals in Beijing believe that the Lamas are religious leaders, then the central’ government should have no business in appointing them. So they cannot simultaneously accuse the Dalai Lama of being a political leader and also deny him the right to carry out his religious imprimatur.

In an era of China’s unprecedented economic growth, inclusive and nuanced socio-political and cultural policies

You shouldn’t read this sentence without having someone trained in the Heimlich manoeuvre standing by.

Update: N Ram’s piece has also been fisked here by Shencottah

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