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Happenings in Lhasa

The happenings in Lhasa of the last few days have been interpreted as a ‘revolt’ by political and media analysts. Mr.B.Raman, on very tenuous evidence, asseverates that China itself has admitted it to be a revolt. In support of this conclusion, he draws on the statement of the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region. A close reading of the statement will bear out that nowhere does it use the word ‘revolt’. It only talks of plots, sabotage, disruption of public order and violence. Of course, it blames it all, not explicitly on Dalai Lama, but on the ‘Dalai clique’. The tone and tenor of the statement is not indicative of any admission of revolt; it is merely a narration of ugly incidents that resulted in “beating, smashing, looting and burning” and “jeopardised people’s lives and property”. Hence, to say, as Mr.Raman does, “…. that the Chinese military are facing a revolt in Tibet the like of which Tibet has not seen since the Khampa revolt of the 1950s…” is to allow oneself to be carried away and indulge in wishful thinking.

We will also be wittingly becoming a prey to far-fetched fantasy by linking these disturbances, which are a fraction of what we are accustomed to encounter in any part of India on any given day, to some kind of a heroic exploit by anti-China Tibetan activists to derail the Olympic Games. It will be too much to credit a few hundred ragtag, raucous, ragamuffins with any such grandiose enterprise.

Were the Dalai Lama and his disciples so out of their mind as to think that a bunch of men, women and boys and girls, waving flags and sprinting towards the border will liberate Tibet from the clutches of China? Or, that an equal number of libertarian Lhasans can throw off the established power structure in Lhasa and make the Chinese turn tail? Remember, Tibet, for all that the China-baiters might say, has been a closed and hermetically sealed political issue for more than 50 years. Nobody throws even a passing glance at the drama now and then staged, for want of a better way to occupy their time, by the so-called independence-mongers.

Also what was the ostensible provocation that suddenly prompted the protests both at Dharmsala and at Lhasa? Looking as closely around as one may, one sees none. On the contrary, the Chinese have been showering goodies on Lhasa and Tibet in order to win over the population. Recent visitors to Lhasa – not all of them apologists of China – have been impressed by the look of prosperity there, and the recent railway has emotionally knit the mainland with Tibet. It simply makes no sense to believe that votaries of free Tibet, devotees of the Dalai Lama and ill-wishers of the Olympic Games had any reason at all to draw attention to themselves at this time and in this fashion.

Then, what is one to make of the news both from Dharmsala and Lhasa? As per the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes, after eliminating all the postulates that do not hold water, whatever remains must be taken as correct. In my judgment, China, for reasons of realpolitik, wants to keep the heat on the Dalai Lama and India and give them a bad name. It has sought to buttress whatever it is doing through its propaganda channels, by planting agents-provocateur in Dharmsala and Lhasa, to whip up trouble as a means of discrediting the Dalai Lama and India. This will come in handy for carrying out any aggressive designs it has in mind in the future. In my opinion, such a proposition is more credible than the vision of a spreading revolt in Tibet.

(The writer, Mr.B.S.Raghavan IAS (retd), is a founder-member of the Chennai Centre for China Studies.)

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