Martyr Tsewang Norbu la protesting by setting himself ablaze in the town market of Kham Tawu, Tibet
I vividly remember, almost a week ago, when my friend Lodoe Laura & Daniel at the final leg of their 3-month long Tibetan Identity Photo project in Dharamsala interviewed me where one of their questions were on the ways that have helped me assert myself as a Tibetan.
My Pala seldom talks about the resistance and his involvement. But whenever he does, what always grips me is how young he joined the resistance. Ever since my childhood, I have always wondered what forces in the world might drive someone to such measures. But over the years, through the small steps that I began from the annual march 10 rallies in Dhasa to the walks I earned through these steps, the answer only became clearer.
Roughly 7 years ago, I remember how excited my Pala & Amala were when finally after many years and months of preparation, they were heading to Tibet again but for the first time ever since their escape into exile during the occupation. Despite the small what and what-not to take confusions all being dealt by my Amala, my Pala was more excited on how to make up for all the years he have missed in Tibet with his surviving family members whom he left by joining the resistance at the age of 15.
After their 3 month stay, they returned feeling all emotional, surreal and brought back sleepless nights of tales which were further accentuated by the videos they captured on their camcorder.
And for the first time I had the glimpse of what really the place where my Pala hail from looked like; I saw the video zooming on the very Rineh hills in Tawu which until then was only a picture of a bygone memory hanging for years on the wall of our house.
I felt really touched to see my father and his brothers meet again after years of separation. But I was highly moved to see how after all that welcome reception, my Pala & Amala were then taken to the attic when my uncle very carefully unlocked a room where at once I saw them prostrating before the very portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama which is banned and illegal in Tibet.
After 52 years of Tibet’s occupation and repression, I was horrified to hear that once again a Tibetan in Tibet – Tsewang Norbu, was driven to a similar but extreme act by self immolating himself calling for the ‘return of His Holiness’ and ‘Freedom for Tibet’.
This year during the His Holiness’ 76th Birthday, when nuns from the Ganden Jangchup Choeling nunnery in Tawu were interrupted by the Chinese security personnel from their early morning sangsol (incense offering prayers), tens of thousands of Tibetans confronted the security personnel with Tibetan national flags and raised slogans calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and religious freedom in Tibet.
I recall, last year after a call to Tibet, my Pala, in short interval of excited breaths, shared me how my uncles and their families just returned from a spectacular birthday celebration of His Holiness in Tawu. I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude until when I came across the 4 full DVDs of the celebration. Radio Free Asia covered the news this year by cropping it into 5-minute long viewable video.
In march this year, Lobsang Phuntsok, a 20 year old monk, self immolated himself in Ngaba to mark the third anniversary of the crackdown on Tibetan protesters in Nagba in March 16, 2008. Two years ago, another monk named Tapey from Ngaba in his mid twenties was shot by the Chinese police while setting himself on fire holding a Tibetan flag and a portrait of His Holiness.
Tapey, in his mid twenties, from Ngaba, Tibet
These acts of courage by my brethren in Tibet and tales of resistance from my Pala and elders are what have over the years made me hold stronger and not sway nor falter any inches away from asserting myself as a Tibetan!
In memory of Pawo Tsewang Norbu la, i would like to share the following poem byBhuchung la