"My Kind of Exile": The Silencing of Tenzin Tsundue

Via DesiPundit, I came across a string of news articles and posts on Tenzin Tsundue, a talented activist poet and essayist of Tibetan extraction; in 2001 he won the Picador Outlook Non-Fiction essay prize for this moving piece of work. Tsundue was also born on Indian soil, and is therefore Indian in somewhat the same sense as I consider myself American. But with a difference: Tsundue's people, the many thousands of Tibetans who have taken refuge in India, are effectively denationalized. They aren't full Indian citizens (though legally they ought to be), and they can't go back to a home country that doesn't exist anymore.

In 2002, Tsundue got attention in the Indian and international media when he took advantage of a construction ladder and climbed the outside of a fourteen story building (Express Towers) directly facing the Oberoi Towers in Nariman Point, Mumbai. The Chinese Premier was in town, and when he and his delegation arrived at their posh, high-rise hotel, they were undoubtedly chagrined to see Tsundue in the building directly across, unfurling a 30 foot "Free Tibet" banner stitched together entirely out of Chinese flags. (More details)

One of the interesting comments Tsundue made at that time was in response to the danger he faced as hotel security officials were threatening to drop a materials lift above his head on him, when he refused to come down: "'I did not worry about the threat being carried out, knowing that I was in India and not in China,' he said."

Telling words; are they true? The Indian government has recently placed a restraining order on Tsundue in connection with Hu Jintao's coming visit to India (see Nitin Pai's outraged post on this). Tsundue has been ordered not to leave Dharmsala during the Chinese Premier's visit -- on threat of deportation to Tibet! It's understandable that the Indian government would want to protect the Chinese delegation from intrusive protesters, but I think Tsundue ought to have the right to go to Delhi and express his opposition to the Chinese occupation, especially since we know that Tsundue and other Tibetans will do so peacefully. India may be worlds away from China on matters of personal freedom and respect for human rights, but as this case shows, it's still far from perfect.

One other thing: Nitin points out that the Indian news-media has yet to pick up this story. I did find something on "Telugu Portal," but otherwise it's mainly newspapers in places like Malaysia that are covering the story. Shouldn't the Indian media at least be reporting this story?

Update: More coverage is starting to appear. Also check out this new article by Tenzin Tsundue on the current status of Tibet in the evolving Indo-Chinese relationship.


Anonymous said...

Amardeep, thanks for posting this, it's quite interesting and outrageous, actually. I'm thinking of spending some time in Dharamsala this summer. It should be interesting to see what the situation is like for the Tibetans (Indians?) there now.

Anonymous said...

This is a terrible shame and really annoying. As you probably know, the press is pretty craven. What is worse is that this govt is craven as well. The Chinese ambassador claimed sovereignity over Arunachal Pradesh with impunity, and the Indian Govt responded with a whimper. So, threatening a stateless Tibetan is not that surprising.

Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

NDTV has a story on this.

Anonymous said...

had a chance to meet tsundue. i got to read his book which contained the outlook essay and otehr short stories. the world cup moment that he describes is moving.

i hope tibet will one day be free. and wish he can one day cheer-up for his tibetan football side in the world cup.

tsundue is a satyagrahi, ahimsak.

and in this world where economy rides on democracy, ahimsaks had to face himsa all over...

ekla chalo, tsundue, ekla...