Thank You India: Tibetans Mark 60 Years of Dalai Lama’s Arrival in Country
The Tibetan government in exile has also launched a "Thank You India" campaign, which will include various events organized in the country this year.
As the inaugural ceremony was moved out of New Delhi to avoid upsetting fragile India’s relationship with China, Tibetan leader Dalai Lama marked 60 years of his arrival in the country on March 31.
The Dalai Lama came to India on March 31, 1959, after a failed uprising against China. The Tibetan plateau was captured by China in 1950.
At an event held in Dharamshala to commemorate the occasion this year, the Dalai Lama invited and embraced one of the five Assam Rifles troopers who escorted him into the country. “I feel blessed once again as His Holiness touched me and bumped his head with my head,” the trooper, Naren Chandra Das, was quoted as saying by IANS .
The event was noticed for the low turnout of senior Indian leaders, a sign seen by political analysts as India’s wariness after the month-long Doklam stand-off with China last year, and the upcoming Beijing visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. China looks at Dalai Lama as a “separatist,” and the political asylum given to the spiritual leader by India has for long been a source of tension between the two nations.
An emotional Dalai Lama called on the Tibetan community to remain united at the event, which was attended by India’s Union Minister of State for Tourism & Culture Mahesh Sharma, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Madhav, Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi and Himachal Pradesh minister Kishan Kumar. The Tibetan leader emphasized upon the “strong bond” between India and Tibet, saying the two countries shared deep connection of “culture and literature.”
Speaking at the event, Lobsang Sangay, the head of the Tibetan government in exile, thanked India for its support in 60 years and came down heavily on China. “It’s been 60 years since China’s illegal invasion and occupation of Tibet, 60 years of destruction of Tibetan civilization, Tibetan culture and Tibetan identity,” he said, the New Indian Express reported.
India is home to more than 125,000 Tibetans.
The Tibetan government in exile has also launched a “Thank You India” campaign, which will include various events organized through the country for one year.
Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will preside over the opening ceremony of the Cultural Festival of Tibet on April 2. The festival will feature exhibitions, film screenings and cultural performances.
The “Thank You India” campaign will also involve a mass tree plantation drive to support a green India movement, distribution of food to the hungry and homeless, and a mass cleanliness drive to observe the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat initiative. A “Thank you India” music video, performed and produced by artistes of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, was also released in March.
However, reports emerged last month that top Indian officials were asked to stay away from the events.
The inaugural ceremony of the occasion was also reported to have been moved from New Delhi to Dharamsala, and an inter-faith prayer ceremony led by the Dalai Lama and Seventh World Convention on Tibet to be held at the Indian capital were also scrapped, CNN reported. While there was no direct communication from the Indian authorities, plans were changed out of respect to the Indian government’s position, Sonam Dagpo, a spokesman for the Tibetan Central Administration was quoted by the CNN as saying.
“Once we (heard about the note), we decided to shift the venue,” he said, according to the report. “There are no ill feelings. If you weigh what the Indian government has done for us, that is far more than this.”
The Indian foreign ministry maintained that there has been no change in India’s position on Tibetan refugees.