Tibetan monks and others, who have survived the April 14,2010, earthquake in the Qinghai Province , the birthplace of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, have appealed to President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to allow His Holiness to visit the quake-hit areas to supervise the rescue and relief efforts and to “offer salvation for our dead and prayers for the victims.”
2. Their petition, which has been carried in the Chinese language by boxun.com, a web site run by a group of Chinese political dissidents and exiles, states as follows: “Dear President Hu and Premier Wen. When we suffered the enormous natural disaster of the earthquake, your Party and government immediately dispatched officials and soldiers and forces from all areas of society to rescue us, the victims, and we in the disaster area are extremely thankful for the government’s help. But we are masses with a religious faith and for generations upon generations we Buddhists have believed in Gwalya Rinpoche the Dalai Lama. At such a time as this when we have suffered such a terrible blow we are in urgent need of the Dalai Lama to come to our disaster area and provide salvation for our dead and comfort for our wounded souls. President Hu and Premier Wen, we request that in your gracious benevolence you may satisfy the wishes of the people in the disaster area. We Tibetan victims in our tens of thousands plead with the Party and central government to set aside your grudges against the Dalai Lama for the sake of the people in the disaster area. We only wish the Dalai Lama to come to the disaster area to offer salvation for our dead and prayers for the victims. There is no other purpose to this than that of religious faith. It is only by means of the Dalai Lama visiting here to pray for our comfort that the wounds in our souls may be healed, and aside from this there is no better means. ” (http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/china/2010/04/201004160551.shtml )
3. Over 11,000 Tibetans have been injured by the quake. The deaths of many of them have pushed the total number of fatalities to 2000. It could go up further as more injured die. Despite the deaths of a large number of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns, the surviving monks and nuns have mounted a massive rescue and relief effort on their own without depending on the rescue and relief campaign of the Government. They were among the first to reach the quake-hit areas before Government officials could reach there. They have been complaining that while the rescue and relief efforts of the Government and the Chinese Red Cross have been highlighted by the Chinese and international media, the stupendous efforts of the monasteries and monks have not received the attention they deserved.
4. Apart from the massive human tragedy, Tibetan Buddhism and culture have also suffered damages due to the destruction by the quake of a number of monasteries and Tibetan cultural heritage sites in the area and the deaths of a large number of monks and nuns. No estimate of the monks and nuns killed are available, but their number is believed to be high.
5. Among the historic monasteries which have suffered damages are the 1300-year old Thrangu monastery, one of the most historically important monasteries of the world, a center for retreat for several previous incarnations of the Karmapa Lama – the head of the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism— and the Mahakala shrine. The quake-hit areas have historic and spiritual links with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism headed by the Karmapa Lama.
6. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his officials have appealed to the Chinese to allow His Holiness to visit the quake-hit areas, but it is certain the Chinese will not allow him. Nor will the international community exercise pressure on Beijing to allow His Holiness to visit the areas. It is important for international broadcasting stations broadcasting programmes in the Tibetan language, including the external services of All India Radio, to broadcast the prayers of His Holiness to the people of the area.
( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )