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Debate over Tibet’s freedom lands Young Tibetans in dilemma

Parents in Dharamsala worry that their Hindi-speaking children are too Indian, while new arrivals from Tibet to Dharamsala struggle to fit in

– by Ranjuaery Dhadwal 

August 24, 2016:
If Tibet gets independence today, will the new English speaking generation prefer to go to their own country? The question that haunts the older generation.
Especially the generation which came to India with or after Dalai Lama. The generation, which was born in Tibet and fled to India or other parts of the world are worried that the  Tibetan language is only left in few phrases in younger generation’s memory. Now the trend is that more and more Tibetans want their children to remain in India because it has more cultural proximity with Tibet.
Indian Government has opened up Central schools in almost all the Tibetan settlements in India, where Tibetan Language is taught. It’s been more than 60 years since the first wave of Tibetans fled Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh following a failed uprising against Chinese Communist Party rule and the subsequent brutal military crackdown.

Representational Image: Tibetan Teachings Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Representational Image: Tibetan Teachings. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Roughly 85,000 people who first fled Tibet mainly clustered around a central core, built around Dharamsala and the Dalai Lama; in the mountains of India, Nepal, and Bhutan- next to their homeland. Now after three decades, new chapter for Tibetans living outside has emerged. As the prospects of returning to Tibet is diminishing, more and more Tibetans are adopting refugee life in South Asia for the West. Tibetan Government in Exile’s lobbying has arranged for large-scale resettlement programs that bring in hundreds of immigrants every day.

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Dalai Lama says that intermarriage for Tibetans was inevitable but Tibetan language and culture is important and needs to be preserved. Some of them have married Western and Indian women and are having half-Tibetan children. Most of the young Tibetan women too prefer to marry western or Indian people for a settled life.

In an interview Dalai Lama said that had he adopted the path of violence for Tibet’s independence, the Tibetan race would have extinct, rather he is approaching the middle way path for Tibet. Within the community, Tibetan Youth Congress is demanding total independence from China.

The present scenario is that Children born in India or in west are not aware of their culture or traditions. They are basically Americanized or Indianized. Most of them are into higher studies instead of joining the freedom struggle. One of the youngsters in Dharmashala has got his MBA from the University of Oregon, in entrepreneurship. He will decide whether or not to go back to Tibet once it gets independence. At present, he wants to start his own venture. He said, even if they go back to Tibet, they have to start from scratch. Though they show their love for Tibet but there is a disconnect between knowing what you are and actively feeling that way.

Mixed-race Tibetans that came or are coming to India or going to other parts of the world are grappling with issues that how they will fit into the Tibetan cause- how to preserve a sense of connection to a far-flung homeland and how to handle the perception that they are contributing to the community that still feels like it must fight to preserve itself. There is clearly an existencial crisis among these people. They are living in a era when a community, which was recognized for its cultural preservation (even though Beijing has destroyed many of the hallmarks of its culture) these people are struggling to know what exactly constitutes authentic Tibetan-ness.

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Parents in Dharamsala worry that their Hindi-speaking children are too Indian, while new arrivals from Tibet to Dharamsala struggle to fit in. Most of them only say that they have come to learn English. Some of mixed-race Tibetans has struggled to find their footing as well.

Tibetan welfare officer says, Young Tibetans would grow too concerned with money and they would give up on the goal of e returning to the Tibet. The Tibetan government continues to lobby Western governments to take in more of those currently living in South Asian settlements. Tashi  Phuntsok, says that he has been urging Tibetan families to keep up the language with their children and make sure they remember where they came from.

Ex Tibetan Youth Congress President Tseten Norbu says, that it should be the main object of the Youth Congress. This is the only organization which has proximity with young Tibetans. He further mentions that, since the Himchal Government has given voting rights to the Tibetans born here or are half Tibetan, hope of returning to Tibet of this generation is diminishing.

– Ranjuaery is a freelance contributer and can be contacted at ranjuaery@gmail.com

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