The Face of In­jus­tice

Ti­betans and Ti­betan refugees in Nepal suf­fer great in­jus­tices from China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in the coun­try.

Southasia - - Nepal Human Rights - By Raza Khan

As China grad­u­ally in­creases its in­flu­ence in the neigh­bor­ing Hi­malayan state of Nepal, Ti­betans are find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to cross into the coun­try. In ad­di­tion to this, the Ti­betan refugees al­ready in Nepal are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a mora­to­rium on their po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties giv­ing rise to new hu­man­i­tar­ian crises.

On its part, Chi­nese of­fi­cials are try­ing to stop Ti­betans flee­ing into Nepal and are en­list­ing the help of the Nepalese au­thor­i­ties in crack­ing down on the po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties of the Ti­betans al­ready there. Ti­betans are the largest im­mi­grant com­mu­nity in Nepal though their num­bers have de­creased con­sid­er­ably over the past few years.

Ti­bet is a dis­puted re­gion where its res­i­dents have waged a long but un­suc­cess­ful po­lit­i­cal strug­gle for sep­a­ra­tion from China. In­dia has been help­ing Ti­betans with their strug­gle to set­tle scores with its tra­di­tional ri­val China. One im­por­tant rea­son be­hind the de­mand for sep­a­ra­tion has been the de­nial of re­li­gious freedom to the ma­jor­ity Bud­dhists res­i­dents of Ti­bet. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has ex­pressed deep reser­va­tions over gross hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Ti­bet by Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties but th­ese have failed to de­ter Bei­jing to stop. Delhi has es­pe­cially ad­vo­cated the Ti­betans case in the in­ter­na­tional arena. How­ever, In­dia’s sup­port to Ti­betans has been largely po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, as it has long-de­sired the in­clu­sion of the strate­gi­cally im­por­tant re­gion in the In­dian Union.

Ap­prox­i­mately 20,000 Ti­betan mi­grants had been car­ry­ing out an­tiChina po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties in Nepal with­out ma­jor checks from lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. Such ac­tiv­i­ties have at­tracted in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion and ex­posed Chi­nese atroc­i­ties. China is also try­ing to pre­vent a pos­si­ble res­ur­rec­tion of an anti-China guer­rilla strug­gle by the Ti­betan pro-freedom groups and ex­ploita­tion of the sit­u­a­tion by In­dia

and the U.S. In the 1960s, Ti­betan guer­ril­las car­ried out at­tacks against Chi­nese troops us­ing the Mus­tang area of Nepal and were helped by the CIA. The guer­rilla camps were wound up af­ter Pres­i­dent Nixon de­cided to es­tab­lish diplo­matic links with China. There­fore, Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties fear that if the mi­gra­tion of Ti­betans con­tin­ues into Nepal, the more ex­trem­ist among the mi­grants may re­sort to guer­rilla war­fare.

In or­der to stop the flow of Ti­betans into Nepal, Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have re­sorted to an as­sort­ment of tac­tics in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives to Nepali state func­tionar­ies, threats, and train­ing Nepalese bor­der se­cu­rity forces. Th­ese tac­tics have been quite ‘suc­cess­ful’ from the Chi­nese stand­point as the num­ber of Ti­betans refugees has sig­nif­i­cantly de­creased over the years. Those who have al­ready mi­grated to Nepal have also been un­der strict scru­tiny and check by the Nepalese au­thor­i­ties. Ac­cord­ing to The New York Times in the first eight months of 2012, the num­ber of Ti­betan refugees cross­ing the Hi­malayas into Nepal was about 400, half as many as dur­ing the same pe­riod in 2011. Ti­betans blame tighter Chi­nese se­cu­rity in Ti­bet as well as Chi­ne­se­trained Nepal bor­der guards for the re­duced mi­gra­tion. China’s in­flu­ence on Nepalese au­thor­i­ties has been so com­pelling that Kath­mandu dis­al­lowed exit to 5,000 Ti­betan refugees who were granted asy­lum by the U.S. China be­lieves that such pres­sure tac­tics will dis­cour­age Ti­betan refugees from car­ry­ing out po­lit­i­cal or an­tiChina ac­tiv­i­ties.

The ear­li­est Ti­betan refugees ar­rived in Nepal in 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled Ti­bet. The Ti­betans set­tled in refugee camps, of which 13 still re­main. With a Ti­betan en­clave set up around Boud­hanath, some Ti­betans be­came rich by mak­ing car­pets and hand­i­crafts, and prom­i­nent Ti­betan monas­ter­ies amassed wealth and pur­chased prime real es­tate in the Kath­mandu Val­ley.

The dom­i­neer­ing in­flu­ence of China on Nepal is also at­trib­uted to re­gional pol­i­tics. In­dia since long has dic­tated terms to the Hi­malayan state and at many in­stances this in­flu­ence has be­come in­tru­sive. In or­der to off­set the In­dian in­flu­ence, Nepal has bol­stered re­la­tions with Bei­jing and as a quid-pro-quo it has se­cured sig­nif­i­cant chunks of fi­nan­cial aid.

In this sit­u­a­tion the only hope for the res­i­dents of Ti­bet and Ti­betans refugees is that the grow­ing trade be­tween China and In­dia could defuse ten­sion be­tween the two coun­tries and help al­le­vi­ate the woes of Ti­betans. China has re­cently com­pleted a 22-kilo­me­tre road con­nect­ing cen­tral Nepal with the Kyirong dis­trict in Ti­bet. The pur­pose of the road is to ex­port goods to In­dia through Nepal. Bei­jing is also pon­der­ing link­ing Kath­mandu to the rail­way net­work present in Ti­bet in or­der to tap the trade po­ten­tial with In­dia. In­fras­truc­tural links such as this would open up the re­mote Ti­bet re­gion and fa­cil­i­tate its res­i­dents’ move­ment to In­dia and Nepal.

Once Ti­betans get some rel­a­tive freedom this may cur­tail anti-Chi­nese sen­ti­ments but at the same time may spur Ti­betan sep­a­ratist sen­ti­ments. With Delhi eye­ing eco­nomic in­ter­ests through en­hanced trade with China, the coun­try is ex­pected to grad­u­ally de­crease its sup­port to anti-China Ti­betans. Thus the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will have to play a mean­ing­ful role to help mit­i­gate the mis­eries faced by Ti­betans and pres­sur­ize Bei­jing to solve the is­sue ac­cord­ing to the wishes of the dwellers of the re­gion.

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