Days after the Himachal Pradesh high court ordered criminal proceedings against him in the 2011 foreign exchange violation case, support has starting pouring in for Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa who is the head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, from all quarters, particularly the Buddhist community spread across the Himalayas.
A bit disappointed but optimistic, the followers of the 30-year-old leader feel he would "come out clean" and that it was time the Indian government took the initiative to resolve the issue to avoid alienating Buddhists residing in a "strategic border area."
They have categorically blamed a rival group owing allegiance to Trinley Thay Dorje, a claimant to the title of the Karmapa, for trying to implicate Ogyen and have alleged the NGO that filed the petition in the high court, Denzong Nang-Ten Sung-Kyob Tsogpa (DNST), was backed by the Thay camp.
"He is a highly revered religious leader for the Buddhist population residing in the Himalayas. We're disappointed but not broken as we know he's innocent and will come out clean," says Jambay Wangdue when reached over phone.
Wangdue hails from Tawang region and is chairman of the Karmik and Adhyatmik (Chos-Rig) department in the Arunachal Pradesh government.
"We've full faith in the Karmapa and the entire Buddhist population in the state stands in solidarity with him," he added.
Devotees from another north-eastern state, Sikkim, which has a large Buddhist population, expressed similar views about their revered leader.
"We're very disappointed by the high court order. An atmosphere of despair and disappointment prevails in the entire state," said Sonam Lama, MLA from Sangha, India's only assembly constituency that has no territorial boundaries and is reserved for reserved for the Buddhist clergy with only monks and nuns as the electorate. "The monastic community in Sikkim," he said, "Is feeling disheartened ever since the news was heard and we're trying to keep them in high spirits. I will write to the Indian as well as the Himachal Pradesh government to resolve the issue. DNST is part of a conspiracy hatched by the rival camp and they also try to instigate people in Sikkim against the Karmapa."
The Sikkim legislative assembly had adopted a resolution moved by Sonam to take Ogyen to the Rumtek monastery, the exiled seat of the Karmapa. Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling too has pledged to bring Karmapa and "install" him at the Rumtek monastery on many occasions.
The Indian government has banned both Ogyen and Thay from entering the Rumtek monastery. The Karmapa's followers in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, which is dominated by Buddhists, to whom this reporter talked on phone, said they too stood in solidarity with their leader and hoped it would all end soon.
Meanwhile, Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue, who was first to come out in open support of the Karmapa when the controversy erupted in 2011, says the Indian government's move to prosecute the latter would alienate the country's "strategic border population," many of whom are followers of the Karmapa, who is also a potential successor of the Dalai Lama.
About the foreign currency haul controversy, he said: "The first incident in Una district was the aftermath of a fallout between two businessmen. As far as seizure of foreign currency in the Gyuto monastery (residence of the Karmapa in Dharamsala) is concerned, every monastery, like Hindu temples, receives donations. Dragging the Karmapa into the controversy is something we can't comprehend."