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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

While Beijing frowns at Dalai Lama’s Arunachal’s visit, Tibetans sell Chinese goods

Tibetans say what choice do they have in selling Chinese products when the market is flooded with them.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2017 14:08 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
People shopping at the Tibetan market at Lakkar Bazaar in Shimla on Saturday.
People shopping at the Tibetan market at Lakkar Bazaar in Shimla on Saturday. (Deepak Sansta/HT)

While Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh angered China, Tibetan diaspora has long lived with the paradox of fighting the Red Army’s control over their ‘homeland’ while selling Chinese goods for a living .

“Goods manufactured in China are being sold all over the world. We, too, are a part of ,” admits Tsering Choeden, head of the Tibetan traders’ association of the Tibetan refugee market. Tsering, 37, is a third-generation Tibetan refugee.

The Tibetan refugee market in Shimla has 76 shops and every other shop is stacked with Chinese merchandise.

“What choice do we have? We are refugees — we have to make a living and fend for our families. Whatever we get from Delhi, we sell it. Indian traders, too, get Chinese stuff,” says Palden, a shopkeeper.

“Not only in Shimla, Chinese goods are present is every market. We are not happy about selling them , but we have little choice,” Chukhi, another shopkeeper at the Tibetan market, laments.

There are nearly 200 families living in the two Tibetan settlements in Shimla, one in Sanjauli and the other in Kasumpti area, which also has a small handicraft unit .

“We keep meeting Chinese visitors who visit McLeodganj. There is a lot of Chinese merchandise here in McLeodganj,” said Lobsang Wangyal, director of Lo Wangyal Productions in Dharamshala.

‘Won’t sell Chinese products’

Despite the plethora of Chinese goods available in the market — China is India’s largest trade partner — there are still some Tibetans who refuse to sell Chinese products, instead choosing to only sell good manufactured by members of the exiled Tibetan community.

“I have never sold Chinese products . I only sell ethnic Tibetan goods,” says Tenzing, who runs a Tibetan handicraft shop on the Shimla Mall road .

When the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled Lhasa in 1959 after the Chinese military invaded the erstwhile capital of Lhasa, scores of Tibetans followed him on foot during his 15-day journey to India. Dalai Lama reached Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on March 1959. Many Tibetans, along with the Dalai Lama, settled in Mussourie initially and later shifted with him to Dharamshala, which is also the headquarters of the Tibetan government -in- exile.

It was on April 29,1959, that the Dalai Lama set up the Tibetan government-in-exile. Dalai Lama continues to strive for autonomy for the China-occupied Tibet.

Many Tibetans initially worked as labourers but, with the passage of time, set up their own businesses. The government-in-exile, with help from the Indian government, assisted Tibetans in setting up of refugee markets that are now present in many Indian states. There are 58 Tibetan settlements across the world — 39 major and minor settlements in India, 12 in Nepal and 7 in Bhutan.

First Published: Apr 08, 2017 14:05 IST