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Hark Back in Time: Escape of the Dalai Lama From Tibet

Updated on September 9, 2019
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1959 seems to be a long way off but sometimes one feels that these events took place only yesterday. It was a very significant year as the Dalai Lama spiritual and temporal head off Tibet fled the capital Lhasa. Dalai Lama was 24 years old and he had been watching with pain and consternation, the subjugation of his people by the Chinese. The Chinese government had taken a decision to remove the Dalai Lama from Lhasa and take him to China. This information leaked to the court of the Dalai Lama and he was informed that the Chinese were likely to take him to China. The close advisors of the Dalai Lama advised him to flee the country and proceed to India from where he could globalize the world against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The Chinese army had invited the Dalai Lama to witness a function in the cantonment. There was every chance that he would be arrested at that time and taken to China.

Escape to India

The Dalai Lama however with a bunch of followers including his younger brother left in the middle of the night. His departure was kept secret and a facade of the Dalai Lama still being inside the Potala palace was kept up.

They were able to ward off the Chinese. After 2 days the Chinese came to know the Dalai Lama who did not attend the function in the army camp had left Lhasa. Unknown to them that he had fled with his palace jewelry and close followers and was nearing the border of India.

The Chinese were not aware that he had left and when they came to know that he had left the palace, they carried out a search of the city and surrounding areas. By that time the Dalai Lama's party had reached the Indian border at Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal Pradesh was then known as NEFA( North-East Frontier Agency) and the deputy commissioner of the Tawang region informed the central government and Pandit Nehru that the Dalai Lama was seeking entry into India. Jawaharlal Nehru for once showed spunk and took a decision to allow the Dalai Lama to enter India. At the same time, a message was passed to the deputy commissioner Tawang district to treat the Dalai Lama with respect. Dalai Lama also sent a message to Pandit Nehru asking for entry into India and its support to fight the Chinese.

In 1959 a revolt against the Chinese army had started. This has come to be known as the Khampa rebellion. It is a matter of regret that at that time President ├Čke Eishenower was preoccupied with containing the Soviet Union and no help was forthcoming.

The Dalai Lama entered Indian territory and was received by the deputy commissioner and the political officer. He was given a guard of honor by a platoon of the Assam Rifles and continued into India and reached Tawang. He stayed here for a couple of days. In the meanwhile, messages were floating between Delhi, Tezpur, and Tawang.

Political asylum in India

Nehru announced in Parliament that India had accepted the request of the Dalai Lama for political asylum. When Mao-Tse-Tung Tum came to know about it he was infuriated and Tibet guards of the Patola Palace were arrested and taken to concentration camps. The Chinese army began a brutal crackdown. Tibet became a colony of China. The Chinese attempted to destroy the Tibetan religion of Buddhism and many Buddhist nuns were forcibly married to Chinese soldiers

After the Escape

Dalai Lama's entry into India was nothing short of dramatic. He wanted to reach Delhi from Bhutan but at the last moment, the Bhutan government developed cold feet. The Dalai Lama went from Tawang to Tezpur. The deputy commissioner of Tezpur welcomed him and he was treated with great respect.

Photographs of the welcome received by the Dalai Lama were splashed all over the world. This further infuriated the Chinese who announced that Nehru was a running dog of American imperialism. The Chinese asked India to handover the Dalai Lama. Pandit Nehru very firmly said that the Dalai Lama is an honored guest in India.

The spiritual leader of Tibet was given a guard of honor by the local Army units. He was then airlifted from Tezpur to Delhi in an Indian Air Force plane. At Delhi, he had a meeting with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and requested for help against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Perhaps at that time, Nehru must have regretted his decision of not helping Tibet when China invaded the country in 1950. Even Sardar Patel the Home Minister was of the opinion that India should intervene in Tibet and stop the Chinese army.

India has always had a close relationship with Tibet and Buddhism spread from India to Tibet through the Himalayan passes.

The Dalai Lama subsequently moved to Dharamshala and formed the Tibetan government in exile. The United States and the Western world simply ignored this development.

The Chinese reacted by expelling and closing the Indian consulate in Lhasa and in 1962 launched a border war. 60 years down the line the Chinese do not allow an Indian Consulate in Tibet and are very scared that India may interfere in Tibet.

Last word

Much water has flowed down the river Ganga since the time the Dalai Lama escaped to India. All these years he has stayed at the hill resort of Dharamshala with his followers. He has a government running but no country in the world recognizes it. The Dalai is a lonely man and he knows that time is not on his side.

Once he dies the Chinese may select a reincarnate of the Lama from someone in Tibet. China also does not want India to take part in the selection of the next Dalai Lama. The Indian government and the Dalai Lama will not recognize this.

The Dalai Lama has so many times expressed his desire to go to China and Tibet. He wants to have a settlement with China, but they don't want anything to do with him.

The Chinese do not want him to enter as they are scared that his presence may well ignite a revolt against them. The world will have to live with the sin of having allowed the Tibetan people to be subjugated by China and their culture destroyed by the communist regime.


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