Nepal’s age old relationship with Buddhism, one of the world’s oldest faiths, never needed a mention. But now the land of Buddha has started acting against its own Buddhist people who believe in the Dalai Lama as a living Buddha. Gautam Buddha was born in Shakya kingdom which lies in the present day Rupandehi district in the Lumbini zone of Nepal. Ironically, this is happening on the behest of another primarily Buddhist country, China.
(Pic Courtes: TPI)
Tibet Post International (TPI) reported on Monday that Tibetans are being arrested in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, to prevent public celebrations on the birthday of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama. HH will be 76 years old on July 6, 2011. According to TPI 39 Tibetans were arrested from the Boudha region of Capital Kathmandu on Sunday. 47 Tibetans are said to be in detention, which includes 12 Tibetans who were detained on June the 12th to honor their solidarity with Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. According to reports riot police have been spread across the city to prevent Tibetans from accessing celebration sites.
A Sad Development
It’s sad that a country where Lord Buddha was born is banning birthday celebration of the Dalai Lama, one of Buddhism’s most revered preachers of contemporary times. It’s particularly frustrating since a significant number of people practice Buddhism in Nepal. According to Central Bureau of Statistics some 10.74 % of Nepal’s population practice Buddhism, consisting mainly of groups of Tibeto-Burman origin.
The major reason being cited for this dramatic turn of attitude in a country where Tibetan Buddhism continues to be one of the most widely practised form of Buddhism since hundreds of years is the mounting pressure from Beijing. Of late China has developed a deep interest in Nepal, more due to its renewed interest to check India’s ‘natural’ ties than the economic benefits it would get out of it.
A few weeks ago Nepal TV banned the airing of Noble Wisdom because the programme included preachings of HH the Dalai Lama. Now this has happened. There have been regular reports of increasing harassment of Tibetans in Nepal.
Lessons for India
Riding on the back of its phenomenal rise to being world’s second largest economy China has been offering huge aid packages to Nepal. The Tibet Post reported that the Nepalese leaders in Kathmandu are actually coordinating crackdowns in different regions of Nepal especially against the Tibetan refugee community.
Nepal has no history of doing anything like this ever before till recent times. It is for the first time that an official disruption has been sanctioned on the annual, sacred event. Except in China and now Nepal, which is a constitutional democracy, there is probably no other country in the world where photographs of the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama are banned.
Believers of the Dalai Lama have a soft corner of India because of India’s continued hospitality for HH the Dalai Lama. Nepal’s handling of the issue can be the beginning of an uneasy trend i.e. “to what extent can Nepal go to curb India’s influence?” Can Nepal think of doing a similar treatment of madheshis (people living in the plains) who are overwhelmingly pro-India? And if Nepal ever starts doing what it is doing to Tibetans today, which might be assumed to be the next step, what options do we have?
Nepal and HH the Dalai Lama
Nepal is going beyond the limitations of what a fair and friendly relations among two sovereign state would demand from each other. By suppressing Tibetans and other Buddhist minorities, many of whom are Nepalese, Nepal is violating universally settled norms of how a state should treat its refugees. Nepal is also going against the spirit of its own democracy by acting against Buddhist people’s right to religious freedom.
To ban Tibetan national flag, Tibetan anthem and celebration of birth anniversary and photographs of internationally acknowledged religious leaders tantamount to a rule of intolerance and anarchy. Nepal’s policy on even peaceful anti-Chinese protests is a breach of international human rights and free speech and is shameful of a democracy.
Nepal is home to around 20,000 Tibetan exiles. Nepal must introspect if it is willing to go beyond and make its other minorities and madheshis feel insecure by acting irresponsibly on the behest of China. For His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it’s another loss in his struggle for a Tibetan Homeland.