I woke up today with some sort of trepidation. Today is March 10, the anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising of 1959. More pertinent, it is the first anniversary of the Tibet-wide demonstration that we saw last year.
In days leading up to today, Tension has been building up. The Chinese authorities were definitely on tenderhooks even though they attempted to show a brave face voicing the now well known slogan of normalcy in Tibet (notwithstanding that they had to close all Tibetan areas to foreigners, restrict the movement of Tibetans, block all communication channels as reported by a crew from a French TV, France24). Reports had been coming out from Tibet about sporadic protests, including an attempt at self-immolation in recent days. This was happening despite the severe clampdown on Tibetan people by the authorities.
I woke up to the sound of the NPR radio news that was reporting on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s statement on the anniversary that he made from Dharamsala. His Holiness’ statement was strong and critical, reflecting the present reality in Tibet. At the same time, he was reiterating his continued commitment to a negotiated approach to resolve the Tibetan issue. I thought he was also comparing the difference in attitude of the Chinese leaders to the Tibet since 1959. How does the present leadership in Beijing fare in this? It is obvious.
There was an immediate Chinese reaction to His Holiness’ statement in the form of a Xinhua report that was defensive. Although the report carried names of two Tibetans, possibly journalists, who had “contributed to this story” but it is clear by the tone of the report that there is no Tibetan color in it. Tibetans wherever they may be living, may have difference on the political issue, but there are some “Tibetanness” that all of us share even when we convey our disagreements. This was absent in the Xinhua report, as it is with the “statements” that we see in the name of Tibetan scholars and experts that Chinese media reports.
Later in the day, I had the occasion to watch the recording of the March 10 commemoration in Dharamsala and the subsequent meeting with the press that His Holiness had. Occasionally, during the ceremony, the camera panned across to the audience, showing the faces of the high ranking lamas, students in uniform, monks and nuns, etc. Everyone appeared sombre reflecting the occasion and I had a feeling that in the back of their minds they may be experiencing similar trepidation like mine: What would happen in Tibet ?