Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Lama meets Mahatma

I FOUND IT VERY SYMBOLIC SEEING the Dalai Lama paying homage to Mahatma's memorial at New Delhi. And, rightly so. Mahatma Gandhi, who always advocated for equanimity of all religions, was not a Buddhist, yet, without any exaggerations, he was a perfect example of one. Mahatma brought independence to his people through practising non-violence, and that is what the Lama teaches the world.

[Left: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama throws rose petals at Raj Ghat, The Memorial to Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi on March 29, 2008, to attend a public inter-faith prayer meeting for those who lost their lives in Tibet. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Jain leaders offered prayers along with The Dalai Lama and hundreds of Tibetans and their supporters at the cremation spot of Mahatma Gandhi. - tiskali.co.uk]

The Dalai Lama is a defacto (though dethroned) King of the Tibetan people. And he is at his Kingly duty while he takes on China with respect to the rights for the Tibetans. In doing so, as always - and as Bodhisattva incarnate - he has taken the peaceful (middle) path, and his 'meeting' the Mahatma was more than a statement to this effect.

On the other hand, there is this 'fraction' made up of Tibetan students, who have taken the route of giving the Chinese military a taste of their own medicine - in an equally violent manner. It's rather natural. But they should be under an effective leadership, and should better know what they are doing, else they would likely end up damaging the mission of the Dalai Lama rather than China. History has it that every peaceful protest or uprising is accompanied by a violent one, and vice versa. After all, not everybody who would want to attain the same aim would consider one path as the only path.

One of the common most dividing range among peoples of all kinds and cultures - An apparent generation gap.

The twist truly comes in the way the 2008 Olympics games are entwined into this ethnic issue. China could have done without it at any rate, but the Tibetans saw a 'global' opportunity to capture world-attention. It appears that they were also backing upon the by now well-known oppressive nature of the rule that China imposes under its regime. A little provocation by a certain bunch of Tibetan students in Lhasa, and China happily obliged by moving in its armed forces. And when it realised that it was rather a lure to the dragon into the cave, it started calling foul on the Dalai Lama for allegedly 'master-minding' the 'violence'. Too late to figure, I suppose.

[Right: Police pull down a demonstrator along the route of the Olympic torch in London. Protesters advocating Tibet's independence disrupted the torch's path in London, Paris and San Francisco. - time.com]

The bad aspect of the Olympics being dragged into this is, as I observed in certain online forums, that it has confused as well as divided people world over in terms of their support to the Tibetans, and in doing so, have lost some good souls to the opposite camp. Someone said, "Keep sports out of it, whatever it may be... [Sports] is probably only place left with some spirit...", Someone else, "Olympics does not belong to China, it belongs to the world, are they [Tibetans] boycotting the world?" another said, "Let's boycott USA for its treatment to the Indians, and Russians for this, and German's for that, and Britons for another, and... You would not end up having any place [wealthy enough] to host Olympics... " These people are generally sympathetic with the oppression that the Tibetans have been through, like they do for Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Darfur, or any other place...

On the beneficial part, the Tibetans gained world-stage to put-up their protests, largely peaceful ones, and attracted the attention to their cause. The media, though it appears remained shrewdly divided, have had multiple field-days. While they 'worded' condemnation for the Olympics boycott-calls, at the same time, they gave certain people and nations the arm-twisting opportunity against China. That said, it is not for the first time that the Olympics face a boycott issue; the world has seen it thrice already. But in all those cases, the issues were international and political rather than ethnic.

[Above: Countries that have boycotted Olympics - Montreal-1976 (yellow), Moscow-1980 (blue) and Los Angeles-1984 (red).]

At the end of the day, however, China would remain unstoppable, and the chances of the Olympics being deferred/called-off and next to nil. And the reason is simple: Economics.

Economics and the numbers involved in this Beijing Olympics event does not favour either deferment or cancellation. Sports is a huge business globally. With all due respect to its international 'community spirit' and all that, the Olympics is after all an economic event of the largest scale in sports today. While it requires a huge investment, it also promises to bring in a mountain worth of foreign exchange within a very short run of about a month. Perhaps, the Bird's Nest has some golden eggs!

China has a lot at stake, for, along with it's investor 'friends', it has infused billions into infrastructure development in/around Beijing to host this event. China's business plans in terms of first breaking even, expand infrastructure at the cost of tourists' money and hyper-consume it's own products in the process, and then make billions in profit, had not accounted for Tibet - Or might have underestimated Tibet, because that's what it seems now. And I suppose that is where China is at its most vulnerable (numbers are not released by China; for London 2012 the budget is £ 9bn = ~USD 18bn). After all, it's all about Money. Threats to Beijing Olympics were first proclaimed by China (not the Dalai Lama, as some media had first reported, and then corrected. The Dalai Lama has rather favoured the Olympics, calling them a peaceful event.). One of the reasons why China had to sound the bugle could be for all those US/EU investors to help cover the grounds. It is supposed to be a very effective strategy if executed properly - let those 'western' investors resist anti-Olympics (i.e. anti-Chinese) propaganda in their respective home-land for the sake of their own invested money.

The Olympics would go on, on schedule, as planned, and we would get to see everyone falling in line as well.

And at that rate, Tibetans seem to lose out; on one hand they could not dislodge the Olympics, they might have made enemies out of innocents, and the 'uprising' remains oppressed. (Also, any uprising has to be from within, and not without.)

This is perhaps the toughest time for the Dalai Lama since his exile. And I hope the Mahatma had a word or two of respite for him...

Update: The 29th Summer Olympics begins with a bang at Beijing on time.

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