Last March the streets of the Tibetan capital Lhasa erupted into violence. The date marked the anniversary of the beginning of China’s occupation of Tibet in 1959. Now, the date marks the beginning of one of the most brutal periods in Tibet history, turning the roof of the world into what His Holiness the Dalai Lama has described as “hell on earth.”
On March 11 Sonam tied a T-shirt over his face so that he was unrecognizable, he said, “I burned cars and broke windows I shouted slogans.” He was arrested; to get him out of jail Sonam’s friends gave a false alibi to the authorities, swearing that he was at home with them. Using knowledge he gained working as a tourist guide he was able to escape from his homeland and the Chinese authorities that hunted him. The other people that were arrested with him are still in prison.
In years past between 2,000 and 3,000 Tibetans made the dangerous crossing into Nepal to seek refugee in India where His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been residing since 1959. Since last March that number has decreased to a fraction; each month only 13 people arrive from Tibet.
Rigten a young man from Eastern Tibet arrived in India before March 2008 and lived in the new arrival center in Dharamshala for two months, he said “when I arrived at the reception center everything was full there were people everywhere you couldn’t even go to the bathroom in the night without stepping on people. If you go there now you can see it is empty.”
Sonam said “I only brought four people, the situation is so bad since last March so I didn’t bring more, guides used to bring 20 or 30 sometimes even more than that.”
The four men that Sonam guided across the border are monks who had returned to Tibet to visit their families and had been unable to come back to India after the crackdown in March 2008. He said, “I did it for free because I brought my friends but other guides charge around 10,000 Yuan.”
“In Lhasa I have a lot of friends who took part in the uprising last March, they want to come to India but they can’t escape,” he continued. “I am scared to try again, I have friends in Nepal and friends in Tibet but the situation is so bad that I don’t know if I want to try again, it is too dangerous.”