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Tibet: A Nonviolent History of War

posted Sep 27, 2014, 8:16 AM by The Tibetan Political Review
By Carole McGranahan (September 25, 2014)

  The history of armed resistance has been controversial for Tibet’s nonviolent narrative.

On April 27, 1998, Thubten Ngodup set himself on fire to protest the Indian government’s forceful ending of a Tibetan hunger strike in New Delhi. Two days later, he died from his burns. Ngodup was 60 years old, a former monk at Tashilhunpo monastery in Tibet, and a former soldier in the Tibetan forces of the Indian army. Since 1988, he had worked as a cowherder and cook at a monastery in Dharamsala, living quietly in a small hut, and participating whenever possible in Tibetan independence protests and marches.

During the 1998 Unto Death Hunger Strike in Delhi, Ngodup volunteered as an assistant, tending to the needs of the six hunger strikers. On the morning of the 49th day of the hunger strike, as Indian police forcibly dragged away the hunger strikers (in line with Indian laws prohibiting suicide) and beat volunteers who protested police actions, Ngodup doused himself with a flammable liquid — shouting pro-Tibet, pro-Dalai Lama slogans — and lit a match. His immolation drew the attention of the world’s media, martyrdom status within the Tibetan community, and the “deeply saddened” criticism of the Dalai Lama, who had earlier spoken against the proclaimed nonviolent hunger strike as a form of violence against one’s self.

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