Raucous protest costs Jonang support for Tibetan parliament seats

Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Dharamshala, (H.P) INDIA
Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Dharamshala, (H.P) INDIA

(TibetanReview.net, Sep20, 2015) – Members of the Tibetan parliament in exile have refused to discuss a possible amendment to the Charter of Tibetans in exile to give religious parliamentary seats to the Jonang tradition of Tibetan Buddhism during their ongoing, 10th bi-annual session which began on Sep 15. This was after some Jonang followers, who had been holding a raucous protests outside the parliament, jostled with a member on Sep 17 for his opposition to the Charter amendment during the previous parliament session. The protesters had been targeting four member of the parliament who had expressed the opposition at that time, including with a poster campaign.

On the suggestion of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a gathering of Tibet’s top religious leaders had endorsed Jonang, hitherto considered a part of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, as a distinct school some years ago. Following it, the Jonang followers had been demanding separate parliamentary seats for themselves, alongside those for the followers of the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibet’s pre-Buddhist religion Bon.

A proposal to amend the Charter of Tibetans in Exile to accommodate their demand was tabled in the previous session of the Parliament in Exile but did not garner the required majority support.

Following the Sep 17 incident, no one spoke on the issue when the Speaker, Mr Penpa Tsering, opened a discussion on it. Both he and the Sikyong Lobsang Sangay then spoke to the gathering of the Jonang protesters outside the parliament, pointing out to them that their tradition was being given due respect and distinct representation like the other major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. As regards parliamentary seats, they suggested that the protesters follow the democratic method of lobbying with the members of the parliament in exile rather than heckling them and holding that kind of protest.

But the protesters, said to number around a hundred, remained adamant and nine of them decided to sit on a hunger strike. They also put forward a set of seven demands directed at the Sikyong, the executive head of the exile Tibetan administration, and the Speaker.

Tsewang Gyatso, President of the Jonang Welfare Association, India, has also denied that protesters had scuffled with any exile parliament members. The member in question, the Sakya MP Gazi Tse Ringpo, has, however, taken leave from the parliament session, citing threat to his personal safety.

During the current penultimate session, the 15th Tibetan Parliament in exile is discussing the annual reports of the different departments of the exile administration as well as committee reports, besides taking up other relevant matters.


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