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Appeasement no antidote to venomous innuendoes: Condemning Monlam Tharchin’s recent statement

Luna L.H.* condemns allegations of political intrigue made against a Dhomey member by Chithue Monlam Tharchin for insidiously implicating the Dhomey constituency as a whole, and hopes that such comments are neither allowed by the Speaker nor tolerated by other members in future.

Rhetorical flourishes, whether in the form of witty repartees or dramatic spiels, often liven up parliamentary proceedings. We Tibetans were recently treated to an adage on the humble goat, which would’ve been a nice touch of folk humour befitting a nomadic race like ours, except that the raging speaker seemed in no mood for a joke. (Wonder what the Sikyong had done to get his goat!) In response, the Sikyong made a calm collected retort subduing the venerable, measure for measure, from his near-apoplectic outburst to a muted bleating (pardon the pun) at the end. 

Indeed, a few others of his kind seemed to have entered the parliament determined to not only give offence without cause but also to take offence when none was made. When a Dhomey Chithue made a plea for reconciliation to avoid causing further anguish to His Holiness, Dhotoe Chithue Juchen Kunchok attacked him so bitterly one would think he had personally insulted her. That the resolution of impeachment was invalidated by Article 5 is the prevailing opinion accepted by the majority. When another Dhomey member voiced this directly in the parliament, he was dismissed as ‘someone with no understanding of law who is always making statements here and there.’ Maybe the learned monk, who made this derogatory comment on a fellow parliamentarian, should know that ignorance even in the humblest commoner is still excusable, but such arrogance undermining other people’s intellect is a cardinal sin especially in Buddhism.

I was, however, compelled to write this piece on another exchange as it doesn’t even seem to have registered on the public radar despite the gravity of what was said. Criticising the walkout staged by one camp, Dhomey Chithue Geshe Ghangri said that this step was akin to fomenting further dissension against HH’s edict of reconciliation. Monlam Tharchin replied (this is an excerpt of his response and an approximate translation), 

“This speaker is the community president of a province. He is the ringleader directing this province hither-thither … Someone who has never spoken a word against the Chinese is talking to us saying ‘we versus you’ … As a community president of this province, this ringleader is dragging all its people down a topsy-turvy direction.”

First, what direction is he referring to here in menacing terms and are the people from that province a flock of sheep to be herded ‘hither-thither’ by one person? Does he mean to say that when the Dhomey associations across the globe meet for community picnics, they’re not making chutse-momos and strumming mandolins, but are being brainwashed into political schemes hatched by Geshe Ghangri? This is slander, accusing a community organisation of political intrigue and an insult to the collective intellect and intent of all Amdowas. If people from a province are more forthcoming with opinions unpalatable to him, that neither makes it wrong nor does it prove a conspiracy. Just as those who stormed the court premises in Dhasa cannot be dismissed as Monlam Tharchin’s co-conspirators, these others are also free individuals exercising their right to free speech.

Instead of questioning the political good faith of ordinary folks, reflect on how you, enjoying positions given by the Tibetan citizenry and government, congregate at the table of an individual who not only disavows any debt to the Tibetan government but is now almost a persona non grata in larger Tibetan society. Pray tell what GPS had preset your direction that all of you fortuitously landed up together at a meeting that was not mandated by any governmental or organisational banner. How is it that individuals supposedly representing separate religious sects take every step in tandem, whether it is convening clandestine meetings or staging walkouts. Does that GPS also emit telepathic signals since blowhards who’re always itching to have a say in the parliament suddenly developed collective corona-phobia and rescinded a session when even the national and state assemblies of India were sitting in house at the time.

As for the ‘us versus them’ bit, that is just your own divisive mentality distorting what you heard because the original statement made no such distinctions at all (refer to the footage on TTV, 1st session, 2nd day, around the 26:10 minute mark). Predictably, a new colleague of his made similar charges against a different speaker in that same session. But thankfully we viewers can hit the rewind button to verify and indeed those too were just baseless accusations concocted by their own persecution paranoia. This is the modus operandi of crybullies – invent an imagined injustice and play the victim to intimidate others. Seems like the newest joinee of the monastic coterie who made this accusation had already learnt the trick of their trade.

Further, Geshe Ghangri may not be going around making anti-China denunciations as though Xi Jinping himself sat listening cowering at the other end, but his antecedents and work speak for themselves. His organisation does community outreach work in his hometown of Ngawa which has been the epicentre of resistance in Tibet counting for a major chunk of the 130 self-immolations that’ve taken place in Amdo (of the total 158 across all of Tibet). Outside of Lhasa, the Amdo districts of Ngawa, Labrang and Rebkong are the only sites that saw widespread demonstration in the 2008 unrest with almost 400 shot dead, whereas calm reigned in Monlam Tharchin’s own hometown and province.

Against better sense, I cannot help but make this baldly vindictive statement. Some may counsel that this turns me into the opponent I detest, but venom can only be cut by venom. Used thus it is an antidote and when laced with brute fact it crushes those who have the gall to discount other people’s patriotism but have nothing to show for themselves except grandstanding as a Rangzenpa from the security of exile. Also, anticipating the Khampa hater comments that may follow, I will just say that my reaction is against a specific individual. Personally too I make no judgment on those within Tibet who’ve reconciled themselves to Chinese rule. I’ll be the first to admit that my own relatives inside Tibet, despite being brutalised and some imprisoned till the fag-end of the Cultural Revolution, have done so. And if that justification doesn’t suffice and my reaction is still taken to be offensive, well then hard luck, the shoe doth pinch when it’s on the other foot, no?

Geshe Ghangri may’ve magnanimously let this affront slide. (In any other parliament of this world, he could have openly made a counter-question on the agenda of their Bir meeting.) But as an ordinary citizen without the burden of having to appease the likes of Monlam Tharchin, I will not brook such offensive innuendoes against my native province. I am, however, not here to ask for an apology or retraction as its authenticity from someone who makes such unprovoked statements on the floor of the parliament is doubtful. But I do hope that some parliamentarian reads this piece and will intervene if he attempts misadventures of this kind in the future.

The Tsoktso’s oversight (especially on provocative speeches that are mostly made by venerables in red robes) is so lax that even such a disgraceful communally-charged statement is allowed unchecked. Can you imagine the ruckus that would ensue if the roles were reversed and someone had made such statements against a Dhotoe representative? Without a balanced mediator, the restraint shown by other representatives in face of such personal attacks is commendable. But when someone makes insidious comments implicating a whole community, then it is time to stop the appeasement and fling off the kid gloves. Now that’s a goat idiom that really sums up the need of the hour!

* Luna L.H. is a pseudonym. The author writes thus to be able to speak her mind freely on this contentious issue.

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