By Sonam Dorjee
Missed Opportunities for the 2016 Sikyong Candidate Lukar Jam to Shore Up Support from the So-Called Moderate Tibetans
Lukar Jam’s courting of unnecessary controversies such as, calling “Lar-Gyen” and vilifying His Holiness the Dalai Lama as “Gyal-Tsongpa” for embracing “Umay-Lam” approach, is a cheap underhanded way of taking shots in Tibetan politics in exile, rather than focusing squarely on the core agenda of Rangzen. For such action in politics must be condemned by all sensible Tibetans in the same vein as we do when the Chinese leaders vilify His Holiness for their own political reasons.
Just to recap the history of Umay-Lam, a special four-day conference to discuss on the crux of autonomy was held in June 1988, attended by the then Kashag, Chithues, Civil Servants, Tibetan Settlement Officers, representative of Tibetan NGOs, newly-arrived Tibetans, and special invitees that resulted in the issuance of statement in the European parliament in Strasbourg by His Holiness. Also, in an opinion poll conducted in 1997, 64% of the respondents authorized His Holiness to take full decision on the future course of Tibetan struggle. Following which, the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies had adopted a unanimous resolution on September 18, 1997 empowering His Holiness to continue to use His discretion in pursuing the “Middle-Way” approach. Therefore, it is apparent that the decision to pursue the “Middle-Way” approach was taken through series of consultations and participatory approaches.
I believe that the “Umay-Lam” approach was adopted not out of choice but of sheer despair in regaining Rangzen. Undoubtedly, it could be described as a sincere effort to bring a resolution to the Tibet issue, mainly to save the ancient Tibetan culture from meeting a slow inevitable death at the hands of Chinese rampaging policies to cleanse out Tibet’s rich tradition. Although the terming of the policy may have been inspired by the Buddhist philosophy but, by all standard measures, it was a pragmatic and selfless approach with no intentions whatsoever to seek political or religious gratifications. As such, there should be absolutely no ambiguities in the minds of Tibetans and its supporters that the “Umay-Lam” approach has been adopted and relentlessly pursued, keeping Tibetan’s best interest at heart. Despite that - to say that proposer and followers of “Umay-Lam” approach lack nationalist feeling or are less nationalist than Rangzenpas is an absurd argument and naively perceived notion, to say the least.
Regardless of its results, it has been widely appreciated by people around the world for being commendable initiatives to resolve the issue of Tibet with sincere motivation. Yet for Lukar Jam; it is an act of “Gyal-Tsongpa” or traitor, which is an utterly unethical to have termed it as such. In fact, his allegations are vehemently laden with political gimmicks and aimed at taking cheap shots in politics. Such decry is not only anti-Dalai Lama but also anti-popular mandate given by the Tibetan People’s Deputies and majority of Tibetans. If he does not have respect for the popular mandate on the “Middle-Way” approach - he has certainly lost the leverage to speak for democratic practice now, while running for the Sikyong position.
Another contentious issue is the usage of the word “Lar-Gyen.” Irrespective of his own personal belief, Lukar Jam has offended the sentiments of ardent followers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by use of such undignified language to His Holiness. It may not be a big deal for him and his supporters but it is highly irreverent to describe a personality who is revered by majority of Tibetans and non-Tibetans alike as manifestation of Avaloketeshwara. Words best shared by Jamyang Norbu la: “Lukar Jam was a nomad boy from Chabcha, playing with sheep, and probably singing paeans to Chairman Mao in his local elementary school.” Lukar may have had enough adverse lessons from the indoctrination of Chinese communist’s propaganda while in Tibet. Whatever may be the reason - if he is serious in leading the Tibetan struggle, showing insensitivity to the sentiments of majority of the Tibetan people is not the way to go.
The Rangzen stand is nothing new to the Tibetan politics in exile. For two decades (1959 - 1979), both the Central Tibetan Administration and exile Tibetans had worked relentlessly to seek complete independence for Tibet – all in vain. Even today, it is in everyone’s right to run for the Sikyong’s position with the Rangzen agenda. However, the problem with Lukar Jam’s campaign is he fails to realize that the “Umay-Lam” approach has been adopted by majority of exile Tibetans in the best interest of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet, albeit without any concrete results so far. In light of that, it is unbecoming of a Sikyong candidate to have dismissed it without any acknowledgement that it was adopted with righteous intentions.
The perspectives from many moderate Tibetans would have been potentially different toward him if he had acknowledged that the “Umay-Lam” approach was democratically adopted through a series of consultations, granted without any meaningful results. In my view, had he built a case of reviving Rangzen stand on the bed of “Umay-Lam” approach as a ‘failed approach’, rather than dismissing it as an ill-conceived policy, he would have garnered better support from wider spectrum of the so-called moderate Tibetans. His acceptability, particularly amongst middle-aged Tibetans as a serious 2016 Sikyong’s candidate with Rangzen agenda would have been far greater. The recent non-cooperation from within exile Tibetan community during his campaign tour both in India and North America, in terms of not renting space to conduct his campaign, or refusing to disseminate his campaign related information, even through mass emailing lists – can be attributed to his misguided campaign philosophy and very little to do with his Rangzen stand.To conclude, Lukar Jam missed an opportunity to launch himself on a positive note as a viable Sikyong candidate with Rangzen agenda. As a result, apart from his handful of supporters, who may not necessarily translate into votes, for not having updated Green Book, at the ballots during election day, it has become difficult for many to consider him as a serious candidate for 2016 Sikyong election. Had he ran a clean campaign convincingly outlining a broad strategy to sustain the movements, while in exile, and ultimately regaining Rangzen against a backdrop of failing ‘Umay-Lam” approach, many moderate Tibetans would have supported him. However, it may be too late for Lukar to undo the damage in disregarding the sentiments of fellow Tibetans – but future Rangzenpas who want to lead the struggle can definitely take a clue from Lukar’s missteps. Otherwise, I would have to say - Atsok Lukar Jam has marked himself as a formidable Left-Wing activist, or nationalist (as some of his strong supporters may want him to be known as).