rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Last updated on: March 30, 2012 20:30 IST

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

     Next

Next
Priyanka

Rediff.com's Priyanka travelled to the Tibetan camp in Majnu ka Tila, which has virtually been sealed off to prevent Tibetans from coming in the way of the visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Majnu ka Tila, a locality situated on the banks of river Yamuna in Delhi, bustles with activity on a normal day.

Comprising over 500 houses, guesthouses, eateries, jewellery shops, grocery stores and tattoo makers, the colony is a zigzag of narrow lanes that get narrower as one reaches the core of the colony. There are dumps of garbage every few steps and power cables dangle precariously at corners.

For years, Majnu ka Tila has been the abode of Tibetans living in exile. The locality is dotted with Tibetan establishments. So much so that people heading for Dharamshala, the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile, make a port call here first.

But on Thursday, the streets were empty, the shops were shut; the locality was virtually under siege. Police personnel manned every exit point and alley in the area. All in an attempt to prevent the Tibetans from coming on to the streets to protest against Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is in town to take part in the BRICS summit.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: A Tibetan exile walks past Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel at Majnu Ka Tila, a Tibetan refugee camp, in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters

     Next

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

"Many people from here have been arrested by the police. They (the police) are not even allowing us to go outside the colony," says a passing resident.

"We are held like hostages. I think they (police) will release them (Tibetans arrested from the colony) only after Hu Jintao leaves," he adds.

The administration has imposed Section 144 (restrictions) barring people's movement in groups in Majnu ka Tila and at the Tibetan Youth Centre in Rohini.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: A Tibetan exile walks past a poster of Chinese President Hu Jintao at Majnu Ka Tila, a Tibetan refugee camp, in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Prev     Next

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Meanwhile, a few Buddhist monks in Majnu ka Tila quietly offered prayers for Jamphel Yeshi, a Tibetan resident of Majnu Ka Tila who set himself on fire on Monday at Jantar Mantar during a protest against the Chinese President's visit, at the Drepling Ngakpa Tantric Buddhist cultural society.

Lhakpa Tsaring, who fled Tibet when he was six years old and has lived in India ever since, joins them.

As the 66-year-old walked towards the single-room home of Yeshi, who succumbed to injuries on Wednesday, Tsaring said, "He was a quiet boy. I would have never expected him to take such an extreme step."

The door, however, is locked. A neighbour informs him that Yeshi's roommates are stuck with police formalities, and are arranging for taking the body to Dharamshala.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: Tibetan monks attend a memorial prayer meeting for Jamphel Yeshi, who lost his life after setting himself on fire on Monday during a protest against the upcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India, at Majnu Ka Tila
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Prev     Next

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

"The police rushed Yeshi's body from the hospital to the mortuary in a rush," says 36-year-old Tsering Palmo, another neighbour.

A mother of two, Palmo complains that they were not even allowed to pay last respects to him.

"We just wanted to see him one last time, but we were not allowed."

Having lived in the neighbourhood for long, she offers a different perspective.

"I think Yeshi knew exactly what he was doing. He was a political prisoner in Tibet, fled in 2006, and had lived there for long to witness what Tibetans have to undergo there," she says.

"It was not a compulsive action," she says, adding, "He had thought about it very deeply."

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: Police personnel enforcing the shutdown at Majnu ka Tila
Photographs: Priyanka/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The suicide note found under the mattress of Yeshi had been reprinted and posted on walls all around the colony, she points out.

Palmo fled from Tibet with her parents and a brother in 1997.

"We want to go to our home, but I don't see how," she says.

"There are many cases of young Tibetans setting themselves on fire in Tibet in the past couple of years. If they are not able to do anything in Tibet, what can we possibly do," she asks.

Her brother, a trekking guide in Manali, visits her frequently.

"Every time we go to the embassy and ask for a visa to go Tibet, we are asked to get a letter from our relatives in Tibet," he says.

Their parents, who fled Tibet in 1965, are long dead. And they are not in touch with any other family members.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: A Tibetan exile reads a note which is believed to be written by Jamphel Yeshi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Prev     Next

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

"Ask any Tibetan in the world," Palmo says, "They would want to go home, but many of us had to flee and now cannot get back."

"And we want His Holiness Dalai Lama to be brought to Tibet," she says, adding, "We have been completely cut from our roots."

Ngawag Topgyal, a hairdresser in a nearby salon, joins the conversation. Like a majority of the Tibetan inhabitants of the colony, the 24-year-old too has never been to Tibet.

"Everybody wants to go to his or her homeland," he sighs.

He says he was shocked to learn about the incident (when Yeshi set himself on fire).

"He must have felt it from deep within," he says.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: A Tibetan exile is detained by police during a protest against the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India, outside the hotel where Hu is staying
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Prev     Next

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Topgyal says that the youngsters have been through the process every once in a while.

"Every now and then, we get together and plan to protest," he says, "But nothing happens."

Things heat up, leading up to a protest, but nothing conclusive comes out of the protest, he says.

"Even our guru, his holiness Dalai Lama has said that we should not do such things (self immolation)," he says, adding, "And the Chinese don't care one bit -- even if hundreds of us die like this."

"Our only hope is that the world should know," he says.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: Tibetan exiles are detained by police during a protest
Photographs: Reuters

Prev     Next

Grim tales of life in exile from Majnu ka Tila

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

A few meters away, Teyki Tsering (name changed) is walking past one of the narrow streets.

The 24-year-old, after having studied hotel management in Dharamshala, now works at one of guesthouses in the Tibetan colony.

She explains, "I and my family fled from Tibet in 1997, but my father was forced to return because he worked in a Chinese bank."

Her parents and her three brothers and six sisters had to go back to Tibet.

"The only way my father could keep me out was by declaring that I am dead in official records."

Her brothers were held as political prisoners in Tibet, and were released only recently. She hasn't seen her family for 16 years now.

"My father died last year. He just wanted to see me once, but could not," she says.

Click on NEXT to go further....


Image: A Tibetan exile shouts slogan from a police vehicle after being detained during a protest
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Prev     Next

Top photo features of the week

Prev     More
Click on MORE to see another set of PHOTO features...


Tags: PHOTO , MORE

Prev     More