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Tibetans in exile vote to elect next PM

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Tibetan exiles across the world on Sunday voted to elect their new ‘Sikyong’ or prime minister as well as members of the parliament-in-exile based here in this northern Indian hill town.

Long queues of men and women, flashing their green coloured voter identity cards, were seen in the morning at nine polling centres in this town to elect one of the two prime ministerial contenders — incumbent Lobsang Sangay and Tibetan parliament speaker Penpa Tsering.

Polling took place in 85 places around the world.

The significance of the prime minister’s post has gone up following Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s retirement from active politics in 2011. The Dalai Lama is, however, not a voter.

A foreign delegation comprising members of the European Parliament was here as part of the Tibetan election observation mission, the Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA) press officer Jamphel Shonu told the agencies.

Voters will also elect 45 members of the parliament-in-exile. A total of 94 candidates are in the fray. The results will be declared on April 27.

More than 90,000 Tibetans in exile across the world were to take part in the election. In the US and Europe, the electoral process is underway.

In India, voting took place, among other places, in Darjeeling (West Bengal), Bylakuppe (Karnataka), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Dehradun (Uttarakhand) and Delhi. It ended in India at 5 p.m.

Some of the other countries where the elections are taking place include Japan, Russia and Australia.

The 2016 general elections are the second direct elections for electing the Tibetan leadership since complete devolution of political authority by the Dalai Lama.

The five-year term of Prime Minister Sangay will expire in August. The 47-year-old Harvard-educated Sangay was the first political successor to the Dalai Lama.

Sangay’s chances to get re-elected are high as he secured 19,776 votes more against his close rival Tsering, who polled 10,732 votes in a first round of voting in October 2015. At that time, 47,105 Tibetans voted.

Both prime ministerial candidates — Sangay and Tsering — had campaigned aggressively across the Tibetan settlements. Even the social media among the Tibetan diaspora was aggressively followed to highlight their issues and agenda.

“Resuming talks with China was and will remain my top priority,” Sangay told reporters after casting his vote here.

Since assuming power in August 2011, grant of more autonomy in Tibet “within the Chinese constitution”, creation of awareness on Tibet and education of the exiled youth are among crucial issues before Sangay.

He took over the reins of the government-in-exile from monk-scholar Samdhong Rinpoche, who held the post for 10 years.

Lobsang Wangyal, director-producer of the Miss Tibet pageant and a journalist, told IANS here: “I feel that Sangay’s big degree hype (Harvard doctorate) didn’t translate into real results. The talks between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and China has been stalled since 2010, which is crucial to resolve the Tibetan issue.”

He said that because Tsering promised to put every effort to revive the dialogue with China and also to improve the situation of the settlements, so many young voters voted for him.

The 80-year-old Dalai Lama, the global face of the Tibetan exile movement, lives in exile in this northern Indian hill town along with some 140,000 Tibetans, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.(IANS)

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Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

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At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

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Buddhism relates sins to the characteristics one adopts. Pixabay

The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

Hinduism
Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

Hinduism
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

Also Read: Triple Talaq Now Banned in India

The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)