Exile and perseverance: The Tibetan Struggle for justice
“Justice demands integrity. It’s to have a moral universe — not only know what is right or wrong but to put things in perspective, weigh things. Justice is different from violence and retribution; it requires complex accounting.”
— Bell Hooks
Nestled away from the chaos of the world, a perseverant population of Tibetan exiles have found asylum in Bylakuppe, India. Since 1959, over 100,000 Tibetan political refugees have arrived here in search of safety. For many it has been over 50 years since they have seen their homeland. And while the world is supposedly being propelled by democratic ideals it is shameful to witness the global apathy towards the tragedy of these people.
But here in exile they have not lost hope.
The Tibetans in India are unlike any other migrant community in the world. In a world that demands “adaptation” and “change” for survival, these people have remained steadfast in ensuring that their history is not erased. Grasping onto fragments of memories, in the forms of family heirlooms or ancient traditions, they continue to resonate with the pride of their homeland.
For them forgetting isn’t an option. As their struggle for freedom rages elsewhere they remain true to the principals of their very existence.
Living far from home they have endeavoured, to not only grow as a people through educational development but to also ensure that this development doesn’t destroy their past. They have erected monastic universities where scholars from across the globe distil the knowledge of their culture for future generations. Many individuals outside the religious temperaments are practising cultural arts such as thangka paintings and mythological operas, to ensure that such traditional forms are not lost. The community is so dedicated to the idea of freedom and their eventual return that they have created a model representation of Tibet’s capital city – Lhasa – so that children will know what their home looks like.
But time ticks away for them all. And as His Holiness The Dalai Lama proposes relinquishing his political authority, hope still remains strong. The people’s faith in the wisdom of his decision is debateable but it does mean one thing – things will change. Perhaps a democratically political system will lead them to freedom.
However the early settlers, who are now closer to death than freedom, stir with anxiety and uncertainty. It is because they fear that once they have passed the next generation may not be as patient with the world as they have been so far. As time passes them by they recognize the radical spirits of persons such as Tenzin Tsundue who have stepped outside the spiritual pacifism of their beliefs to shake the world into acknowledgement.
For some the worst fear is that his way might be the only way that works.
This community will continue to struggle between the allure of the future and the nostalgia of the past. And until the world takes action against the injustices suffered by them, hope is all they have to live on. Hope is their salvation.
Photographer: Javed Sultan
Camera: Nikon D40
All photographs/art are the property of the credited photographer and creator with all rights reserved.