border review | 3 November 2011

61 Tibetans detained in Kathmandu

Yesterday, five minutes walk from where I currently stay in Kathmandu, hundreds of Tibetans gathered to commemorate the ten people who had set themselves on fire in Ngawa (Aba), Sichuan province, since March this year. The gathering was part of a global campaign against Chinese policies in Tibet; it was organised by the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC). Around 300 members of the Armed Police Force (APF) were positioned around the Tibetan refugee settlement where the gathering took place. Phayul reports:

Earlier in the morning, a scuffle broke between the Tibetan refugees and the Nepal Police after members of the Nepali APF grabbed the portrait of the Dalai Lama, which was hung at the terrace of the building where Tibetans were offering mass prayers. Around 30 policemen charged into the middle of the crowd and seized all banners, placards and Tibetan flags reasoning that the word ‘Tibet’ itself had a serious political connotation and is therefore prohibited from being used.

While in detention, the 61 Tibetans refused to accept food and observed a fast. The detained were released late at night.

The government has reiterated several times that protests against China would not be tolerated on Nepal’s soil, and yesterdays clash ties in with a series of similar incidents over the past year. Today’s Kathmandu Post, a leading newspaper in Nepal, does not even mention the episode. It seems irrelevant against the background of all the excitement over the agreement finally reached between the quarrelling parties and the new hope that the peace process will soon be brought to a conclusion.

I tended to read the increasingly harsh police actions against Tibetans in the light of Nepal’s attempts to court its northern neighbour and redefine its position between India and the PRC. Over the last two month, however, I also realised how deeply rooted and widespread resentments against Tibetan refugees are in Nepali society. Tibetans are blamed for all sorts of things – from being rich and successful, to being arrogant or not behaving appropriately. Sometimes, there is little understanding for the Tibetan cause in Nepali society. But sometimes, there is also little understanding among Tibetan exiles for the things the move Nepal.