A 27-year Tibetan youth set himself on fire in New Delhi on March 26. Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) members even stated that they "appreciate his courage" and actually prevented the police from sending the victim to hospital. This is yet another case for the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leader Lobsang Sangay to play with the 'Tibet issue'.
I've attended two conferences addressed by the Dalai Lama in New Delhi since I came to India. On first look, he appeared to be humorous, sociable and compassionate. He was good at cracking jokes against the Chinese leadership and communism. But no one talks about the cruel serfdom he practised and encouraged.
I've also watched Lobsang Sangay's interviews with news channels. He described Tibet as a 'hell', while boasting about the happiness enjoyed by exiled Tibetans. The truth is that the living standards of the Tibetan people in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and the Tibetan autonomous prefectures in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces of China have improved markedly in recent years. They are enjoying unprecedented political freedom as well. Those Tibetans living in India, at best, live the life of second class citizens. They also suffer because their western donors have been busy putting out fires in their own houses.
To garner international support, the Dalai Lama and Sangay had to come up with some new designs. With the help of Kirti Renpoche, former security minister of the 'government-in-exile', they found an abhorrent way forward: self-immolation. Self-immolation among Tibetans started in the Kirti Monastery in Aba Tibet and in the Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in west China's Sichuan province. Some monks brainwashed by Renpoche in India returned to take control of the monastery. Monks and nuns there were the first to conduct self-immolations. In order to achieve maximum effect, people planned the time and place of these acts. Some brought cameras to film the incidents. Once the person was ablaze, some of them even tried to prevent rescue efforts by the police or passers-by. The images were quickly uploaded on to the Internet by TYC and other international NGOs supporting the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama and Sangay claim that they do not support self-immolations. This is only lip service. In an interview on March 10, 2012, the Dalai Lama said he can't call self-immolation a wrong action. His words amount to encouragement of self-immolation. "Better save one life than build a seven-storied pagoda," preached the Buddha. Something the Dalai Lama has clearly chosen to forget.
The ulterior motive of the Dalai Lama in giving tacit support to those engaging in self-immolations is to stage his coming to power. This is his last attempt to force the Chinese central government to allow his return to Tibet. Can he succeed? Who represents the reality of Tibet? Self-immolators or the average Tibetans in TAR?
Li Xiaojun is an official at the Embassy of China, New Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.