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Tibetans in exile follow Gandhi's footsteps

Posted on Oct 02, 02:49PM | IANS

Tibetans, who have been forced to flee their homeland in China more than half a century ago and have settled across India since then, have been following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace and non-violence.

Every year, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the democratically elected government in exile, holds functions at its headquarters here to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, that falls Oct 2.

"Mahatma Gandhiji has made a tremendous contribution to India as well as the world. His commitment to peace and non-violence is well respected all over the world," Tibetan political leader Lobsang Sangay said at a function here Tuesday.

Describing the Mahatma as the most important guru, he said: "As His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) always mentions, India is our guru (teacher) and we Tibetans are their chela (disciple) and as far as non-violence is concerned, Gandhiji is one of our most important guru."

Many Tibetans, mainly the youths, are following Gandhi's teachings, Tashi, secretary of the CTA's department of information and international relations, told IANS.

He said as a mark of respect to the Mahatma, the CTA has been holding functions every Gandhi Jayanti since 2007. "We are observing a public holiday in all CTA offices on this day."

Even the elderly monk, the Dalai Lama, ultimate spiritual and political leader for millions of Tibetans, is the admirer of Mahatma Gandhi.

"I never met Mahatma Gandhi in person, although I dreamt of doing so. I admire him because he was a great thinker who put what he thought into practice," a post on the website of the CTA quoting the spiritual guru said.

The Dalai Lama was responding to a question about Mahatma Gandhi whose aphorism "Be the change you want to see" continues to inspire young people today.

He replied: "Although he (Mahatma Gandhi) had received a thorough western education as a lawyer, when he returned to India he dressed and conducted himself like an ordinary and traditional Indian. He showed how powerful change can start with one individual and spread to others."

The Tibetans have lived in India since 1959 when the Dalai Lama fled his homeland after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule.

Since then the 77-year-old globe-trotting pontiff has been seeking autonomy, not independence, through non-violence for his people in Tibet as he fears their cultural and religious traditions are being slowly crushed.

In his speeches, he often refers to his own plight at the hands of the Chinese.

"At 16, I lost my freedom, at the age of 24 I lost my own country. Now, at 77, what I learned is the power of talk. In the spirit of dialogue, you can't have one side that is defeated and one side win. Open your hearts; consider others," he said.

Time magazine last year listed Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama among the world's top 25 political icons.

The Dalai Lama, according to the magazine, "for decades - and from exile since 1959 - has worked to resolve tensions between Tibet and China. And like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. before him, the Dalai Lama has done so in a manner defined by non-violence and tolerance."

Currently, India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans and the government-in-exile, which has never won recognition from any country.