Cloud over key Ti­betan meet as Delhi stalls Karmapa’s re­turn

Govt. is un­happy with Dorje’s de­ci­sion to ac­quire Do­mini­can cit­i­zen­ship

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - Suhasini Haidar Vi­jaita Singh

The in­def­i­nite post­pone­ment of the 13th Re­li­gious Con­fer­ence of the Schools of Ti­betan Bud­dhism and Bon Tra­di­tion, which was sched­uled for Novem­ber 29 and 30 in Dharam­sala, has once again turned the spot­light on dif­fer­ences be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the Karmapa, the head of one of the four main sects of Ti­betan Bud­dhism, over his re­turn to In­dia, of­fi­cials con­firmed to The Hindu.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials of the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs and the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs, the two sides have reached an im­passe over the 34-year-old Karmapa, Ogyen Trin­ley Dorje’s de­ci­sion to ac­quire cit­i­zen­ship of Do­minica ear­lier this year. As a re­sult, de­spite sev­eral re­quests from the Karmapa for a visa, he has been un­able to visit In­dia as planned.

Re­quests de­nied

The of­fi­cials, who asked not to be named, con­firmed that the Karmapa had writ­ten mul­ti­ple let­ters to the In­dian con­sulate in New York and to the Dalai Lama ask­ing for a visa. The Karmapa said he wants to sur­ren­der the Iden­tity Cer­tifi­cate (the yel­low card is­sued by In­dia to Ti­betans for ease of travel) since he has al­ready ac­quired Do­minica’s cit­i­zen­ship.

A se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told The Hindu that the Karmapa was wel­come to visit In­dia but the gov­ern­ment would not agree to his de­mand to sur­ren­der the Iden­tity Cer­tifi­cate. “He can come here on the Iden­tity Cer­tifi­cate is­sued to him, there is no bar on him vis­it­ing here,” said the of­fi­cial.

An­other source de­nied any de­lay by the gov­ern­ment in pro­cess­ing the pa­pers, but said that in its opin­ion, “the Karmapa doesn’t need a visa.” With its tough stand, the gov­ern­ment is un­der­stood to have made clear its an­noy­ance with the Karmapa’s de­ci­sion to over­stay in the U.S. and ac­quire an­other coun­try’s pass­port, rather than re­turn to In­dia.

Since 1999, when the Karmapa and his sis­ter fled to Dharamshala, the gov­ern­ment has hosted him and allowed him to set up his con­gre­ga­tion. Since then he has grown in promi­nence and is now con­sid­ered as a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor to the Dalai Lama’s po­lit­i­cal clout over the Ti­betan refugee pop­u­la­tion around the world.

Con­firm­ing the im­passe, the gov­ern­ment’s former ad­vi­sor on Ti­betan Af­fairs Amitabh Mathur, who has been a key in­ter­locu­tor said the mat­ter has now been put on hold. “Karmapa is in a re­treat now; it is not known when he would like to visit In­dia. There are no re­stric­tions on his travel, how­ever” Mr. Mathur told

The Hindu.

The con­fu­sion over the Karmapa’s re­turn is now cast­ing a shadow over other is­sues in the com­mu­nity like the Novem­ber con­fer­ence of Ti­betan re­li­gious lead­ers, which was post­poned os­ten­si­bly af­ter the death of a se­nior monk, Kathok Getse Rin­poche, head of the Ny­ingma School, in an ac­ci­dent in Nepal.

While of­fi­cials of the Cen­tral Ti­betan Ad­min­is­tra­tion as well as gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials deny that the ab­sence of the Karmapa had any role in the can­cel­la­tion of the con­fer­ence, most ac­cept that it will be dif­fi­cult to resched­ule the con­fer­ence with­out in­clud­ing him.

Keen to at­tend

In an in­ter­view to Ra­dio Free Asia in July this year, the Karmapa had un­der­lined the im­por­tance of hold­ing the con­fer­ence as well as of his pres­ence there.

“I have no doubt or ques­tion that my re­turn to In­dia is ab­so­lutely cer­tain. In Novem­ber of this year, there will be an im­por­tant meet­ing of the heads of the ma­jor Ti­betan Bud­dhist tra­di­tions in Dharam­sala, In­dia. There­fore, I must at­tend,” he had said.

The can­cel­la­tion of the con­fer­ence has come as a ma­jor sur­prise given the stakes in­volved in bring­ing to­gether var­i­ous streams of Ti­betan Bud­dhism and their lead­ers in par­tic­u­lar. Around 150 Ti­betan lead­ers and re­li­gious fig­ures had been in­vited to the con­fer­ence. The Dalai Lama was due to ad­dress the gath­er­ing on the last day of the con­fer­ence or­gan­ised by the CTA in Dharamshala. A dis­cus­sion on a suc­ces­sor to the Dalai Lama was also ex­pected to be held.

Bei­jing’s con­cerns

When asked about a date for the con­fer­ence, of­fi­cials said the con­fer­ence has now been “in­def­i­nitely post­poned” which led to spec­u­la­tion that New Delhi had bowed to Bei­jing’s sen­si­tiv­i­ties on the issue.

Mr. Mathur said China was playing an in­flu­en­tial role in the Bud­dhist cir­cle in Nepal and Sri Lanka. “We have to take note of this grow­ing Chi­nese en­gage­ment in our neigh­bour­hood. They will do what’s in their in­ter­est. What we need to do is to ex­pand and in­ten­sify our own en­gage­ment,” he said.

When asked, MEA sources how­ever, de­nied that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment had ever raised con­cerns over the 13th Ti­betan leader’s con­fer­ence.


An im­passe; The gov­ern­ment will not agree to the Karmapa’s de­mand to sur­ren­der the Iden­tity Cer­tifi­cate.

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