Dharamshala: – In a ritual that has become all-too-familiar for this small mountain community, mourners from Dharamshala gathered in the town's Main Square on Thursday, 19 December to honor Tsultrim Gyatso, who self-immolated in Tibet earlier that day.
As is now customary, the community began its candlelight vigil by circumnavigating the town's central temple twice. More than 100 participants then gathered beneath traditional prayer flags, chanting songs and "Free Tibet" slogans as the flames illuminated their faces. Vigil attendee Gyaltsen – whose cousin self-immolated last year – echoed the event's overall somber sentiment but expressed the Tibet movement's hope. "I feel very sad... [but also] inspired because they (the self-immolators) have so much courage. This shows they have hope in us. No one would die for a hopeless country."
Speeches at the event were issued by various Tibetan activists including Students for a Free Tibet: India's Program Director Tenzin Jigdal, the International Tibet Network's Asia Regional Coordinator Lobsang Tseten, and longtime Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue.
Mr Jigdal addressed not only Tibetans in his speech, but also spoke to foreign individuals acting in solidarity with the Tibet movement. He stated, "To non-Tibetans, today you have joined with us to speak on behalf of Tibetans inside Tibet; tomorrow, tell your friends, family, and heads of parliament... 'Free Tibet!'"
According to sources within Tibet, Mr Gyatso, aged 42, passed away while protesting against Chinese human rights violations. His demonstration called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and the release of the 11th Panchen Lama. In a note the monk from Amchok monastery authored, he asked, "Where do I express the 'Sufferings' of the six million Tibetans? Can you see it? Can you hear me?" He continued, "China took away our every treasures (sic), when I think of these 'Sorrows,' my tears fall." Sources reported that after the immolation, approximately 400 monks gathered at the monastery to offer traditional rituals for the deceased.
The candlelight vigil for the 124th self-immolation in Tibet since 2009 was organized by multiple Dharamshala-based organizations. These included the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association, and Students for a Free Tibet: India.