(TibetanReview.net, Aug01, 2017) – The charred remains found on the Tibetan Buddhist circumambulation path at Mcleod Ganj, Dharamshala, on Jul 29 has been determined to be a case of self-immolation carried out by a Tibetan man in protest against Chinese rule in his homeland. He was a loner with keen interest in the Tibet issue.
The remains were determined to be that of 49-year-old Passang Dhondup (but registered as Passang Denug), a wood painter at the Norbulingka Institute near Dharamshala. He was born in Gyantse (Chinese: Jiangzi) County in Tibet and had arrived in India in 1991. He was employed at the Norbulingka Institute since 2012.
His remains were later taken away by police for investigation. Two witnesses – a man named Gurmey Dorjee and an old woman named Ama Phurkyi – have said they had seen the man just before he set himself afire but had no inkling of what he was about to do while a third witnessed named Tenzin Dorje came upon the scene only when the man was already an intense ball of fire.
The two who had seen him moments before the self-immolation have said they heard his shouts of ‘long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama’. However, while Ama Phurkyi had turned back to see the man on fire, Gurmey Dorjee had kept going, thinking someone was just shouting aloud his faith in the Dalai Lama. The old woman had run to inform others about the incident and to seek help.
A red coloured carry-bag found at the scene was stated to contain, among other items, a Tibetan national flag, a piece of paper with the name ‘Nyima Gyalpo’ written on it, besides a pair of keys. Nyima Gyalpo turned out to be the name of the person under whom the deceased worked at the Norbulingka Institute’s carpentry section. Two empty bottles of kerosene or petrol were also found at the site.
Nyima Gyalpo has said the deceased had taken a half-day leave from work on Saturday (Jul 29) and never returned. He and others then went to ask his landlord for his whereabouts, but were told that the man had not come home over the past two days.
The keys from the bag were then used to open the room. The Dharamshala Tibetan Welfare Officer, Mr Dawa Rinchen, has said a number of personal documents of the deceased were found in the room. They included his Foreigner’s Registration Certificate (RC), his Tibetan Green Book, bank documents and documents for RC renewal with his photo. However, nothing was found of any note left by him in that room.
Following the identification, police handed over the remains of the deceased to the Tibetan Welfare Officer. Had the body remained unidentified for more than 72 hours, the police were required to deliver the body to the local Municipal Corporation for cremation.
The Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association and the Students for a Free Tibet jointly organized a candlelight vigil for the deceased.
According to Nyima Gyalpo, the late Mr Passang Dhondup liked to keep to himself and did not even own a mobile phone. However, he was good at work and loved to read Tibetan books and newspapers. The man was a bachelor.