I couldn't see clearly anymore and my face felt wet. I was crying ... I tried hard to explain to those around me. But they couldn't understand, couldn't even begin to understand...how could they? They belong to a nation. They have never had to conceive of its loss, they have never had to cry for their country.
Besides his writing, Tenzin has over the years repeatedly shown whoever cares to look just one thing: that there will always be people to focus attention on the perfidy of China's government, on the way it has treated Tibet.
In 2002, Tenzin did just that, in spectacular style. During the then Chinese premier, Zhu Rongji's, visit to Bombay, Tenzin climbed the scaffolding on the outside of the Oberoi Hotel -- where Zhu and his entourage were guests -- all the way to the 14th floor. There, he unfurled a banner and a flag. "Free Tibet" was the message, close enough for the Chinese men to see and large enough to be visible in front page photographs the next day. (I wrote about this here).
Last week, he did it once more. During Chinese prime minister Wen Jiaobao's visit to the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Tenzin appeared high on an institute building, with his flag again. The news reports tell us he likely went in there three days earlier to elude the tight security arrangements for Wen.
What a man. I hope he is safe and well.
In between, Tenzin keeps writing. In this recent commentary for the Times of India, he criticizes the Dalai Lama -- not easily done, for a Tibetan -- for settling for "genuine autonomy" for Tibet within China. This is a disheartening comedown from the aspirations exiled Tibetans have nurtured for half a century: nothing less than independence from China. The Dalai Lama, writes Tenzin,
does not go unopposed within the Tibetan community, especially among the youngsters who do not cow down ... I can never think of being party to the corrupted Communist China, which has brutally massacred her own children on Tiananmen Square when they demanded freedom and democracy.
For Indians who believe in the cause of a free Tibet, it is particularly galling to watch Indian courtship of the Zhus and Wens. They should be shunned for their treatment of an entire people, and there was a time when we would have done just that. Our embrace of Tibetans in exile spoke of our sympathy with their plight, our determination to see them get their home back, our disgust with China.
Today, a nauseating thing they call "realpolitik" dictates that we fall over ourselves to welcome and schmooze these men. Apparently, the equation is simple. China recognizes our annexure of Sikkim. In return we will be silent on Tibet. (What's the difference, I'd like to know, between them going into Tibet and us going into Sikkim?)
And sure enough, that's just what has happened. With a certain glee, our press reports that Wen brought with him a map acknowledging our claim on Sikkim. And in return for that measly crumb, we are craven enough to shut up on Tibet.
Fortunately, there are Tenzins out there who are neither as craven nor as willing to shut up. Power to your flag, Tenzin. Know this much: you inspire.