Sunday, 30 August 2015

Quiet Dissent

Quiet Dissent
For Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

You stood tall as a mountain,
You didn’t slip through their fingers like glass-noodles;
They had power over your body
But your mind like a giant eagle in flight was free.
Through your thick glasses you witnessed
Display of their fear with armoured cars,
Automatic rifles, gas masks, fire extinguishers;
Tongues of hatred from the electric batons
Dissolved powerless into your flesh –

You were in deep retreat in the prison cell,
Meditation cutting across
Layers of lies piled up in their documents,
Fabrications spewed on papers printed by minions
Who leave their minds at home and report at work
To follow dictates of the high-ups.
Into your frail frame flowed
The fluid terror they unleashed from
Sunup until wolves howled at midnight,
Impossible sensation of thin bamboo strips
Driven into your finger nails,
Ghosts of their shadows leaned on your walls,
All through this your mind rested in the ground
Silent invocations arising
From the infinite mother-like space –

I was staring into the pale Indian skies
When the news cried:
You were no more.
A hint of poison tinged your nails and lips
Jail uniform draped over your disjointed shoulders
Your glasses fallen from your shrunken head
Cracked on the floor.
At night they singed your remains
Even your ashes could not be claimed; but
Your spirit glowing in sublime wisdom
Took root in the snow land,
Manifesting in six million incarnations,
Twelve million arms and twelve million eyes
To gnaw at their insecure psyche
To raise fever of their fear.
To melt bullets defying cold orders.
Sparks from your life-light illuminate our footpaths
Dust of your mountain home settle on the
Windowsills of our rented rooms
Beams from your fractured eyeglasses
Mingle with the rage in our hearts.
You are us, living
In a smoky tent pitched on a mountainside.
You are us, living
In a transit camp at a forsaken border town.
You are us, living
In a tin-roofed shack in the hot plains.
You are us, living
In a refurbished condo in an illuminated city.

Now that your spirit has enveloped the globe,
Fear multiplies in the shady cracks of their hearts.

Written in memory of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, spiritual master,  environmentalist, social worker,  freedom fighter and human rights advocate. 

Tenzin Delek worked to develop social, medical, educational and religious institutions for Tibetan nomads, and advocated for environmental conservation in the face of indiscriminate Chinese logging and mining projects in Tibet. On 2 December 2002, the Chinese authorities sentenced him to death on trumped up charges of bombing and explosions. The sentence was later commutated to life in prison.

He said, "Since I am a Tibetan, I have always been sincere and devoted to the interests and well-being of Tibetan people. That is the real reason why the Chinese do not like me and framed me. That is why they are going to take my precious life even though I am innocent."

On 12 July 2015, Tenzin Delek died  most likely murdered  in a Chinese prison after 13 years of incarceration.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Last Words of Sonam Topgyal

To the leaders of the Chinese Government and particularly to the local heads of the minorities;

I am the twenty-seven-year-old son of Tashitsang of Nangchen, Yulshul in Tso.ngon region. Currently, I am a monk studying at Dzongsar Institute.

As people within the country and outside are aware, the Chinese government does not look at the true and actual situation of the minorities but practices only harsh and repressive policies on them. At a time when the government is carrying out policies to stamp out our religion, tradition and culture, and destroy our natural environment, there is absolutely no freedom of expression for the people, and there is no channel to talk about our situation and file our complaints.

Furthermore, every time the people try to report truth about their situation and file any complaint, instead of providing solutions, the authorities retaliate with more crackdowns and arrests. Through various deceptive regulations, the government also prevents monks and nuns from joining religious institutions. In a nutshell, they are carrying policies to completely wipe out the minorities.

Our chief goal is for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be able to return to the Potala Palace. I sacrifice my life to prove to the world and especially the people of China and the Chinese authorities that we have absolutely no power or channels to talk about injustices being done to us.

My Tibetans brothers and sisters of the same blood, please do not remain aloof as if you have seen or heard nothing. Be united, be strong and work hard for our just struggle so we win in the end.

Written on 1 July 2015 just as the sun was rising: Sonam Topgyal

27-year-old monk, Sonam Topgyal, set himself on fire on Thursday 9 July at Gesar Square in Kyegudo in Yulshul, Kham, Eastern Tibet

Monday, 21 July 2014

Under the Crimson Sky

My review (written in 2010) of Nagtsang Nulo's book appeared in Yak Horns, after Dharamsala-based Khawa Karpo Tibetan Culture Centre published the Indian edition of Nulo's book in Tibetan. Following is the first three paras and the full review can be read in my book:

The day before the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched into his village in Northeastern Tibet, Nagtsang Nuden Lobsang – popularly known as Nulo – had a terrifying dream. Thousands of heavily-armed men on horseback galloped amidst dark clouds and dust, shooting everyone in their way. People were felled like willow trees cut by chainsaws. The eight-year-old Nulo had nowhere to hide and tried running after his father whose face was covered with blood. At this moment he cried out, ‘Father!’ Then Nulo’s cousin, sleeping alongside him, punched him in the belly to wake him up.
In January 1956, Beijing dispatched an additional 150,00 troops into Eastern Tibet. Over the next two years, the PLA imposed a campaign of repression and terror. Monasteries were destroyed and monks were tortured, sometimes burned alive and often forced to have intercourse with nuns right in front of the troops. Arrested Tibetan guerrilla fighters were crucified, dismembered, decapitated or sent to hard labour camps. Entire rebelling villages were decimated. News of these Chinese atrocities had already been trickling into the village where Nulo lived with his nomad family.

For a few days the villagers had been watching PLA troops gathering at a makeshift camp on the other side the river. Then, on the morning of Nulo’s dream premonition, monks at the local Tashi Choeling Monastery decided to stage a grand reception for the Chinese military in the hope that their monastery would be saved from impending destruction. The monks lined up on the sides of the approach road in their finest robes playing religious music usually reserved for high spiritual leaders, and holding white scarves in greeting. The Chinese troops marched in the middle of the road in their shabby uniforms, beating their drums and holding red flags aloft. They took up residence in the monastery and installed their radio and wireless radar equipment on the rooftops where prayer flags fluttered....
READ the full review from YAK HORNS available here:

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

News from the Hellish Realm

Note: This is one of the five poems in the first section of Written in Blood. Theurang wrote this particular poem on 15 December 2008, when Beijing's propaganda machinery was spewing out 'burning, looting, smashing' lies to describe an overwhelmingly peaceful protests that spread across the Tibetan Plateau. 

As you can see, this translation has none of the pun, edge and cutting sarcasm of the original Tibetan. Nevertheless, I hope that you will get some sense of Theurang's pulse.

News from the Hellish Realm
By Theurang (Tashi Rapten)
Translated from Tibetan by Bhuchung D. Sonam

Cold wind blows in this hellish realm
Causing an imbalance of hot and cold elements in people
There are many here who suffer from a contagious flu.

But the news about this realm is always fine and bright.

The news from this hellish realm is a document
A document that has lost the word ‘people’
A document with a lock and secret numbers

In this uncertain weather in the hellish realm
Newspaper is like a medical prescription for the sick
A prescription that they have to pay for but fetches no medicine
A prescription like the one stamped with the ‘Constitution’

The news from this realm is a contagious disease
A disease that transmits through people’s mouths and ears
Those who have the disease are servants in this realm

If this hellish realm is like an infirm dragging his shits in his pants
Isn't the newspaper but a paper to wipe one’s bottom?
Isn’t it?

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Pain Without Trace

Gepey, a young Tibetan musician from Ngaba, Amdo in northeastern Tibet, was arrested on 24 May 2014 by the Chinese security personnel from Barkham soon after a concert organized by a group of Tibetans in the area.

Here is my rather rough translation of one of the ten songs from his album released in 2012.

Pain Without Trace

On top of the Potala Palace
Five-starred red flag is hoisted
The heart of my faraway brother
Is drowned in tears of sorrow,
Trishor Gyalmo, the sacred lake
Is frozen in the three winter months
Swans of the lake's north side
Have flown away into the realm of peace,
The greedy and scheming enemy
Has taken over the Tibetan land
Causing fresh wounds in the
Hearts of all our people,
The shameless robbers have
Stolen our fathers' inheritance
Turning the hearts of a powerless people
Colder than waters of the great rivers ...

Like most of the arrested Tibetan artistes, Gepey is accused having political contents in his music. His whereabouts is unknown.

Friday, 16 May 2014


before arrest and torture
Goshul Lobsang was born to a nomadic family in Gyutsa Village in Machu, northeastern Tibet. 
In 1992, he came to India to study in a Tibetan refugee school. After his return to Tibet, the local Chinese authorities constantly harassed him. To avoid further persecution, he went to Lhasa and other areas and later returned home to teach English to fellow nomads and children from neighbourhood.
Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers of Machu county arrested Lobsang on 29 June 2010. And for about 5 months he was subjected to severe torture, including pain-inducing injections, and sleep deprivation. According to Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy, the police also used sharp-pointed objects to pierce his finger nails and cuticles which made his hands immobile and useless.
On 26 November 2010, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Intermediate People’s Court and imprisoned at Ding Xi in Gansu Province.
after his release from prison
By November 2013, his health deteriorated and the prison officials, fearing that he would die in prison, released him on 29 November.
In September 2012, while in prisoner in China’s Gansu Province, he wrote a note titled Prisoner of Clear Conscience, which he shared with a group of friends on 1 March 2014.
On 19 March, he died survived by his mother, wife and two teenaged children.

Prisoner of Clear Conscience
Translated from Tibetan by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy

I have a family. I have siblings. I have a wife and children. For them, I have sincere love and affection, and for the sake of this love and affection, I am determined to sacrifice my life. But for the sake of our own people, even if I lose this love and affection, I will have no regrets. I am an ordinary nomad who loves his people, so I am willing to do anything for my people. I might lose this bony and haggard body that has suffered brutal pain and torture inflicted out of sheer hatred, I still will not have any regrets. I have the desire to follow in the footsteps of martyrs who expressed everything through flaming fire, but I lack courage [to do such a thing].
However, I don’t have the desire to bow my head in surrender to an environment, which denies freedom to speak out against lies and to struggle for equality. [Therefore], I fell into such a situation [of torture and suffering], for which I, an ordinary nomad, have no regrets. What I desire is a free world wherein people can enjoy a life of harmony – I don’t want an atmosphere of darkness, a society wherein life is subjected to oppression.
I have no regrets, although all of a sudden, I may be compelled to separate from the path of life that [I have been treading along] with my beloved mother, siblings, wife and children. I may have to depart with [feelings] of cold, heavy sadness, but I have no sense of guilt in my heart.
My clear conscience is my only asset in this world. I don’t possess anything other than this, and I don’t need anything other than this.
[But] my only regret that weighs heavily on my heart is the lack of profound sense of solidarity among our people, because of which we are unable to achieve a strong unified stand.
Fellow countrymen, we must have a far-sighted [political] vision and strong unity. We must have a strong sense of faith in our culture and tradition, and a sense of gratitude to those who have contributed so much to our nation.
Fellow countrymen of the Land of Snows, we must all uphold unity. May this unity be sustained for tens of thousands of years!

Goshul Lobsang
28 September 2012

Ding Xi, Gansu Province, China