By: Shashi Kei
In April this year, I wrote an article “CTA Violates Its Own Constitution” which was published by DorjeShugden.com. In the article I questioned the sincerity of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in pursuing a liberal system of governance and the authenticity of their claim that they are indeed a democratic government. My interest in the subject was piqued by my observation of a series of inconsistencies between what the CTA says and what they in fact do, and indeed who they are in truth, in contrast to the image they portray to the world.
In a nutshell, I asked how a supposed democracy led by a Harvard graduate who also happens to be an expert on human rights can allow a string of clearly unfair practices to dominate the CTA’s decision making. This is regarding their ban on a religious practice which according to some reports, is practiced by a third of its population, and at the same time accuse China of a crime it itself is committing. I was referring to the ban on the Buddhist deity known as Dorje Shugden, accepted by many Buddhist masters over the centuries as a Buddha.
The answer became clear in May this year when the Sikyong Lobsang Sangay attended the Council On Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. During that time, he made statements which revealed that the CTA might not have held democracy as a serious pursuit after all, despite asserting otherwise in public and especially to the Tibetan people. If there was any confusion or misunderstanding over the Sikyong’s remarks, he made it undoubtedly clear when he said, “We are not asking that democracy be implemented or be allowed inside Tibet.”
The position that Sangay took is in complete violation of the many promises the CTA, including Sangay, made to the Tibetan people. In fact, it is an affront to the hopes of genuine freedom that the government has kept alive in the people over the decades. Lobsang Sangay was elected as the Kalon Tripa and the fact that the Dalai Lama made him Sikyong cannot exempt him and his government from their sworn duty to represent the interest of all the Tibetan people and to be accountable to them. For certain, giving away Tibetan democracy and agreeing to a puppet government under a communist regime cannot be what over a hundred Tibetans self-immolated for. So, how is it that the leader of a supposed democratic nation can trade away the hopes of its people without prior dialogue and without the authority of public consensus? That a so-called leader such as the Sikyong has the impudence to throw away the people’s dream signals that he does not feel bound by the principles of democracy, and neither is the government afraid of backlash from the Tibetan public.
So, how has this been allowed to happen? How is it that the Tibetan people’s fight of over half a century has yielded nothing but an obituary to Tibetan freedom and democracy? It has happened because for far too long Tibetans in general, especially those in exile who enjoy more liberty to mobilize ideas and express opinion (in the absence of strict Chinese policing of all social and political activities), have not carried out their social responsibility of holding their government accountable for policies that affect all Tibetan lives. The CTA has been furtively affecting policies that, on the face of it, seem to impact only a certain segment of the exile population, but in fact has repercussions on the entire Tibetan society. By selectively targeting sections of the population and enforcing faction-specific rules, the government successfully isolates targeted groups from the remaining population who may not see the matter as something they should be concerned with and this is where they are mistaken. Because, each of these localized scourges is nothing less than a cancer that whilst appearing to attack only one part of the corporate body, is in fact a contagion that is waiting to be sprung on an entire population of unsuspecting citizens.
If the CTA’s bad policy is a spreading cancer eating away at the rights of the people, then surely one of the key markers of this social disease is the Dorje Shugden ban, which is a clear-cut case of the most basic rights of Tibetans being trampled upon. There is no democratic society in the civilized world that would tolerate its government banning a traditional religious practice and persecuting its own people on the basis that their belief is not expedient to the government’s objective. The Shugden ban is clear evidence that the Tibetan government, spurred on by decades of public lassitude, no longer regard as sacred the root principles of freedom and individual rights as enshrined in a democracy. Therefore it is on the same marker that the Tibetan people need to assert their rights as provided for under the Constitution.
It should be clear now to all that because the CTA was allowed to flout even the most basic democratic principle and ban a long established Buddhist practice without just cause and due process, that the very same offenders are emboldened to sell out on the people’s democracy wholesale. The Tibetan people should have been much wiser. How can you allow someone to poison a section of the communal well without expecting the entire well to be similarly poisoned? Similarly, how could they have stood idly by as the CTA robbed Shugden worshippers of their rights, without considering that the same may also happen to them under a different guise?
At the heart of it, the Shugden ban was NEVER TRULY about whether Dorje Shugden is an enlightened Dharma Protector or not. It was merely a red herring. Notwithstanding that every single reason put forward to justify the ban has been proven to be lies at its most base level, the ban is still in force. The ban is an assault on democracy and therefore the persistence of the ban is a good barometer of how prepared the Tibetans are to fight for their freedom from any sort of oppression, especially when the oppression is imposed by their own champions. The Tibetan people made a serious miscalculation in failing to appreciate the significance of the Dorje Shugden ban on their hopes for a true democracy. It is now incumbent upon the Tibetans themselves to correct that error. The Shugden ban has to be lifted as a symbol of the CTA’s sincerity to uphold the human rights of all Tibetans. It is also a good indication of the readiness of the Tibetan government to bow to the collective will of its people.
What is at stake here? Over half a century in exile, a lifetime of separation from their homeland and loved ones, over a hundred lives lost in self-immolations, a rich tradition slowly being dissolved and most importantly, a future as a free and independent people lost because generations of Tibetans lived a hoax. A hoax perpetuated by the very people entrusted to look after their best interests.
If indeed the Tibetan people wish to keep their hopes for freedom and democracy alive, they must elect a leader who is prepared to take up their fight, and clearly Lobsang Sangay is not that person. A leader who can and will lead his people into a free and liberal Tibet which is independent of oppressive rule, is a leader who is willing to fight for democracy without fear or favor, and one who would not tolerate the persecution of people based on their religion. Perhaps Lobsang Sangay started as that person but soon discovered that it is much easier to sell out on his own people than to fight for them. The CTA’s perpetuation of the illogical ban on Dorje Shugden practice and its ensuing oppression on Dorje Shugden practitioners is substantive evidence of this. In failing to defend all Tibetan people’s freedom and rights, the Tibetan people themselves paved the way for their own rights to be buried.
What remains to be seen is if the Tibetan people can correct their error, or are even willing to do so, and start tearing down fences put up by the CTA to divide its own people. One good indication is whether the Tibetan people are willing to protest to their own ‘democratic’ government and demand an end to an illegal ban, especially seeing that all the reasons put forward for the ban has been proven false. What the Tibetan people do now with regard to the ban will indicate how successful they will be in their quest for freedom and independence.