By Tenpa Dhargyal Gashi
I solemnly swear, by the flag of Tibet, that I will remain faithful to its colors and until they take this life away from me or until all my karmic merits have been exhausted, I will fight for the Independence of Tibet or die trying. May the gods of 36 realms of the heaven and the Bodhisattvas of this eon bear witness to this pledge and if I should deter from this goal, may my bones never rest nor find peace in this realm. So help me Buddha.
Maybe it is not the most auspicious time for me to be espousing my support for Rangzen, what with the dark smoke billowing out of the burning pyres from Dharamshala’s latest game show: ‘Which Tibetan Parliamentarian can jump the highest?’ But then I always had bad timing and I guess you will have to find a way to live with it. I was flabbergasted to hear the Speaker of the House, Penpa Tsering la, selectively reveal names to the public, Salman Rushdieing them in the process, all the while claiming it was directly from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It didn’t help the matter when our esteemed members of the Parliament collectively decided to perform Shakespeare's Macbeth - in a British accent. I instinctively knew something was not right with that statement. And it was especially so when the names on that list kept growing from three individuals to four and by the latest count has surpassed six. At this rate, who knows, in a month or two, it might even include the Gangkyi cook if he so much as served one more white radish meal in the staff cafeteria. And just as I suspected, after another brief meeting with His Holiness where I assume he had to explain himself, he promptly changed his story to a much less exaggerated and rather ordinary version. It would have been absolutely hilarious if it wasn’t so serious an accusation, laden with horrendous implications and dire consequences for the named individuals, some of whom have had run ins with mob justice previously for much less offense. I will let you ponder on what could happen to people who are supposedly responsible for lessening His Holiness’ life span. It is a good thing it turned out to be once again active imagination at work and no international Newspaper had gotten wind of the story. Can you imagine how ridiculous it will sound to the rest of the world? For the love of tsampa and yak butter and anything else that is still held sacred, in the future, can our esteemed Parliamentarians please keep religion out of their political maneuvering. Can’t we all just get along and stick to the usual accusation of nepotism, bribery, money laundering, loose morals or even visa fraud?
Be that as it may, what concerns me more is the lack of opposition to such absurd pronouncement in the parliament. Granted there was at least one member of parliament who called for a more reasoned introspection of the issue at hand rather than trying to scapegoat a few people, but they were entirely drowned out in the cacophony of condemnation and pleas. How can anybody who felt otherwise oppose it without the fear of themselves being added to the blacklist, next to the much maligned name of MP Karma Chomphel? I have said it before and I will say it again; it is due to the lack of an opposition party in the parliament. We are said to be enjoying a full functioning democracy but we have no opposition party representing the voice of an important section of the people, and it is considerable, that supports Independence. If there is no opposition party, then it is a one party system and not a democracy by definition. There is no getting around that. One would think, with such a huge proportion of the population actively supporting independence, there will be a corresponding number of MPs openly supporting Rangzen, aside from MP Karma Chomphel. And I know there are many who supports Rangzen in the present parliament. Now, with the public burning of Karma Chomphel for his brave stand for Rangzen, and few prominent Rangzen leaders accused of their complicity in reducing His Holiness’ lifespan, it is doubtful if any will ever come out in the near future. Well done indeed, Chairperson Penpa Tsering la - it is the ancient ‘cut off the leader’s heads and the movement will flounder’ technique - well done indeed. Just when we need more revolutionaries in our struggle for our country, we are struck with a shipload of politicians.
This in turn, brings me to my next point: Rangzen Political Party. I don’t know if it was much of a smooth transition but this is the main thrust of the article. There can be no democracy without political parties and if we are truly to put into action His Holiness’ vision of fully functioning democracy in our community, we must have a Rangzen political party. Right now, it appears like the Rangzen activists are content just dancing around the fringes of the dance hall, occasionally moving their heads with the beat and pretending to enjoy it, when all along we want to be part of the discussion. This particular brand of reasoning also has at its peak a certain level of detachment from the exile politics as if we are somehow above the fray. It is also well fed with the quizzical notion that we are somehow protecting the Unity of the Tibetan people by not pursuing Rangzen in a political sense. Let me ask you in a different way: are you saying that you are ethically against murder but you are willing to let others be murdered for the sake of Unity? Think about it.
Well, we don’t have to exist in that painful dichotomous realm anymore. His Holiness has introduced democracy in our society so we can actively practise it, not look at it like an ornament or worse practise it like any less than stellar societies out there. We have our own political party and its name is Tibetan National Congress. This will ensure that people will voice their opinions freely without fear of personal retribution as they will be backed by their party and fellow Rangzen advocates. Moreover, the members of the organization have to abide by the party’s constitution and founding resolutions and are therefore accountable to the party which helps restrict and reduce opportunists. So, not only does an opposition party balance the power in the parliament by representing all sections of the population, it also holds people accountable for their votes and resolutions in the parliament, whether it is members of the opposite party or members of their own party. While it will not guarantee such ostentatious statements, like the aforementioned example, from ever cropping up in the parliament again, it will most certainly help reduce it or at least it will be challenged on the floor effectively.
Tibetan National Congress (TNC) is unique from all the other Rangzen organizations in that it is a political party and not an NGO. Its sole purpose is to pursue the representation of Rangzen in the Government and to promote democracy true to its fundamentals. In that pursuit, all facets of activities relating to activism and education, preservation of culture, history, and language will be actively pursued. TNC is not here to replace all the other wonderful Rangzen organizations who do excellent work and are a passionate bunch, but rather to facilitate the political process and help build a platform for all Rangzen activists to come together and have their voices heard equally in the parliament.
Needless to say, I am a proud member of this much needed organization and serve on the Executive Committee. I encourage all Rangzen advocates who care about the cause and who sincerely believe in the implementation of democracy in our exile community to join the Tibetan National Congress and help usher in a new era of engagement and revolution. 128 Tibetans have self-immolated for the sake of their nation and the least we can do is stand up and be counted and be clear about where we stand. If you want change, you must be the change. I can’t promise a Nobel prize for your effort, but I can guarantee you a peace of mind for having at least stood up for what you believe.