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Long cold march from Tibet

Over 1,000 Tibetans come to India to study every year braving cold and bullets, reports Samrat Choudhury.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2006 03:30 IST

On October 24, a group of 41 Tibetans reached Mcleodganj — the remnants of a group of 77 that had set out from Tibet in mid-September. A nun and a 13-year-old boy were shot dead by Chinese border guards while crossing the Nangpa La pass on September 30. The rest are missing.

European mountaineers who happened to be in the area caught the shooting on camera.

Three 17-year-olds from the group told HT they were walking in single file in knee-deep snow when the shooting started.

All three are from the Kham region of Tibet. They said they have come to India for an audience with the Dalai Lama, and to get an education. They wanted anonymity as their families are still in Tibet — and because they plan to return home in three years after their education in English and Tibetan culture is over.

Ngawang Woebar, president of the Gu-Chu-Sum movement of former political prisoners from Tibet, says over 1,000 young Tibetans come to India to study every year, braving death by cold, starvation, and bullets. “In Tibet, the fees are very high; besides, China does not allow the study of Tibetan culture.” Most go back after completing their 10th or 12th standard, he says.

Tenzin Losel, 26, was part of a group of 65 who made the same journey in 1998. About half of those who came with him have returned to Tibet after completing their studies, he says. However, they cannot find employment on the basis of their education in India. Some work illegally as tour guides. Others find no jobs.

Losel completed his 12th standard in Chinese medium in Tibet; here, he enrolled in the special ‘opportunity classes’ conducted by the Tibetan Children’s Village schools. These allow six years of school education to be completed in two years. Losel says he would like to return to Tibet, where his family is, but the dangers have kept him from doing so.

Email Samrat: samrat@hindustantimes.com