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The First Days in Exile: a Letter from the Dalai Lama to Nehru

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PostPosted: Wed 6 Jan - 11:15 (2016)    Post subject: The First Days in Exile: a Letter from the Dalai Lama to Nehru Reply with quote

A letter from the Dalai Lama to Jawaharlal Nehru about the rehabilitation of Tibet refugees in India as published in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (Series II, Volume 57)


January 30, 1960.

Your Excellency,
I hope that you are enjoying good health, in spite of your heavy and arduous duties of State. I am sorry to encroach upon your precious time but knowing your great sympathy for myself and my people, I venture to do so without further delay.

2. It is now almost a year since I came to India for asylum, and several thousand Tibetans followed me. You personally, and the Indian Government and people, have all shown us the greatest sympathy and regard during the time of our travail, and have given invaluable help in looking after such a large number of refugees despite their preoccupations with a multitude of other important and pressing problems. I need not say how deeply grateful myself and my followers have been to yourself and the Government and people of India for their sympathy and great assistance.

3. It is, however, my fervent desire that the bulk of the Tibetan refugees in India should not remain a permanent burden on the Government of India, nor on the various relief committees who have been helping them in various ways so far. I feel that since the stay of these refugees in India would now unfortunately seem likely to be for an indefinite period, steps should be initiated without further loss of time for their permanent rehabilitation so that as many of them as possible may within a short period be able to become self-supporting. A few thousand Tibetans are already doing road work in Sikkim and perhaps some more may be receiving opportunities for manual work elsewhere. While this has no doubt helped somewhat to relieve the problem of those Tibetan refugees for the time being, I feel that merely engaging these refugees on manual work against wages in Governmental construction projects may not fulfil the ultimate need for their permanent or semi-permanent resettlement.

4. In the case of monks, I am extremely grateful for the kind decision made by the Government of India to establish two camps at Buxa and Dalhousie and to support them in order that they may continue their religious studies and practices for the sake of keeping the Tibetan faith and culture alive in friendly India even if, as seems to be unfortunately the possibility, it should be destroyed under the onslaught of Chinese Communism in my own country.

5. What I say below would apply to the vast majority of Tibetan refugees who are laymen, or not high lamas, who should be enabled to stand on their own feet through some modern vocations.

6. Among the Tibetan refugees are many who had engaged themselves in pastoral activities in their own country. They would feel at home in similar work in India. The cultivators, I suggest, may be settled on agricultural land. There are several for whom sheep or horse-breeding can prove to be useful and customary vocations. Quite a number can do forest work.
I earnestly trust that India with its vast area may be able to provide some opportunities for all these categories of Tibetan refugees, by allotting to them some agricultural land and some facilities for breeding sheep and horses in suitable places. Some virgin forest land would also be very helpful for the settlement of some of the refugees who can initially clear the forests and simultaneously do some timber business, and later on cultivate the cleared areas. A number of Tibetans are good at handicrafts or small-scale industries, and may be enabled to utilise their skill to advantage. There are yet others for whom trade has been a traditional occupation. Some encouragement in this field, for example the grant of special licences, opportunities to invest whatever money some of them may possess, etc., would greatly benefit these persons and render them self-supporting.

7. As far as I know, there are at present approximately 13,000 Tibetan refugees who came to India since March last year. Besides, there are about 8000 Tibetans of the poorer classes who had been in India earlier in the usual course but who could not return to Tibet due to the changed conditions there, and now have become destitutes and refugees. Thus there may be about 21,000 Tibetans altogether at present in India, who are in great need of some opportunities for semi-permanent rehabilitation. I give below a rough breakdown of this total number of refugees, categorised broadly under different vocations which may be suitable for them:-
Total number of refugees: 21,000 approx.

1. Monks and others whom the Govt. of India have already kindly agreed to support:-

(a) Monks at Buxa 1500
(b) Monks at Dalhousie 300 appr.
(c) Aged monks and aged laymen at Dalhousie 700 appr.
2. Self-supporting 500 appr.

Total 3000
Remaining number: 18,000 approx.

(a) For vocational training 2000 appr.
(b) Young persons (below 20 years of age) for school, etc. education 2000 appr.
(c) Able bodied persons who can be suitably settled as:
Cultivators 9000 appr. Herdmen (including horse and sheep breeding work) 3000 appr. Forest Workers 2000 appr.
Total 18000

(These are only very approximate figures, intended to serve as a working basis for consideration of rehabilitation schemes. The exact figures would have to be determined after a census is completed and also with reference to the extent of the facilities which it may be possible for the Government of India kindly to provide-under the various categories.)

8. In addition, I understand that some 4,000 to 5,000 Tibetans who had entered Nepal are wanting to come to India and settle in this country. I would request that they may kindly be allowed to do so if they ask for facilities to stay in India and be resettled.

9. After careful deliberation, I am convinced that the time has come when I must request you for your help in offering these several thousand refugees some opportunities to settle down semi-permanently in India and live more or less like a community with some regular occupations. The places where they are so settled might as far as possible be near to one another.

10. I do sincerely hope that you would very kindly consider my request sympathetically, so that permanent or semi-permanent rehabilitation measures can commence at an early date. I have only indicated the broad lines along- which I would request you to consider this rehabilitation problem. I shall be most grateful if the details could be worked out by competent authorities in the Government of India, for the purpose of implementation. I shall be able to nominate some experienced officers of mine, to assist the Government of India in this matter, since their services will be of help to all concerned.

11. I have had fairly long discussions on this subject with Shri Apa. B. Pant, Political Officer in Sikkim, who was kind enough to visit me at Varanasi. I found that his views in regard to the need for rehabilitation of these refugees are not at variance with my own, which I have tried to indicate above. I do not wish to burden you with too long a letter and have, therefore, taken the liberty of requesting the Political Officer to explain to you and to the officers concerned in the Government of India, in greater detail, the rehabilitation needs as I have tried to visualise from the point of view of the Tibetans. The greatest need, I-venture to suggest, is to settle these refugees as early as possible in a manner that would enable them to live like a community and to earn their living through normal work.

12. Until such time as permanent measures can be implemented, I hope that the Government of India and the Central Relief Committee would continue the kind assistance they have been giving. I would also request that the question of rehabilitating the 8,000 Tibetans referred to in pare 7 above, (they are mostly in the Darjeeling/Kalimpong area) may kindly be sympathetically taken up at an early date. These Tibetans are in a dire plight and I understand many of them have been begging for their living.

13. During my recent stay at Sarnath and Bodh Gaya, I have come to know that there are some one thousand or more Tibetans at present in these two places, 'who are in an extremely pitiable condition, and trying to live by begging. These persons had come from Western Tibet, through Nepal, and did not go to any refugee camp. I fear that in the summer season they will suffer badly unless settled in a suitable place. May I request that the problem of settling these Tibetans may also kindly be considered urgently?
With apologies for having to trouble you with my woes, and with my profound regards and best wishes,

Yours sincerely,
DALAI LAMA [img][/img]
Dans la plupart des pays, les citoyens possèdent la liberté de parole. Mais dans une démocratie, ils possèdent encore la liberté après avoir parlé.
André Guillois


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