It is the future of Tibetans that matters, not mine, the Dalai Lama (74) declared on Sunday, revisiting Tawang after six years.
“The issue is not my going back (to Tibet). It is the well-being of six million Tibetans,” he said soon after his arrival.
The four-day visit drew international attention after China objected to it. It is also steeped in symbolism. Tawang — 550 km northeast of Guwahati, at a height of 8,750 feet — houses the world’s biggest Buddhist monastery outside Lhasa in Tibet. It is located in Arunachal Pradesh, a region China has always claimed as it own.
This monastery was the first spot where the Dalai Lama paused for a few days while fleeing Tibet after the Chinese army overran it in March 1959.
The Dalai Lama said China first established direct contact with him in 1980, outlining five conditions if he wished to return to Tibet. “They offered to send an envoy to Delhi to take me back, but I turned them down.”
Beijing re-established contact in 1993, and again in 2002. “They made me a fresh offer to return,” the Dalai Lama said. “But my reply was the same.”
Thousands lined the streets of the town as the Dalai Lama’s motorcade passed. For locals, all Buddhists, the sight of him was akin to attaining moksha (salvation).
“Whenever we see him, we feel closer to the homeland the Chinese drove us away from,” said 62-year-old Tibetan refugee Lhakpa Chokyi.