Introduction to ‘Indian Cartoonists on Tibet’
by Claude Arpi

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My Religion is simple;
My Religion is kindness.

Thus spoke His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth the Dalai Lama.

This exhibition depicts 55 tumultuous years of the history of the Buddhist leader's lost state: Tibet. The Roof of the World sandwiched between the two Asian giants: India and China, had for centuries managed to remain untouched by the changes and revolutions happening in the world. It had the reputation to be the last Shangrila on earth.

But this serene state of affairs dramatically changed in October 1950, when the People's Liberation Army of China marched unhindered onto the Tibetan soil. A new ideology, less compassionate than the Dharma which had come from India twelve centuries earlier, pretended to liberate the Land of Snows. So said the new Communist masters!

For India, it translated into the loss of a buffer zone with China and a new neighbour. Her peaceful and un-disputed northern border soon became the object of a bitter dispute which continues fifty years later.

It took many years for the Indian Prime Minister to realise the ominous change resulting from the invasion of Tibet. In 1959, the Dalai Lama had no alternative but to flee his homeland and take refuge in what he calls Arya Bhumi, the Land of the Buddha. In October 1962, Mao's troops invaded NEFA and Ladakh.

While Nehru's government generously provided rehabilitation and education for 85,000 Tibetan refugees who remain grateful for this gesture, the Indian Prime Minister made it clear from the start that India would not provide political support to free Tibet from the Chinese yoke. Delhi attached too much importance to a friendship (at times brotherhood) with Beijing. The Dalai Lama began then his quest to find a 'middle path' solution to the sufferings of his people.

This exhibition is the story of the struggle of a man for peace and freedom; a man, who believes that "through the history of mankind, solutions achieved through the use of force have inevitably been transitory." This man, that Tibetans venerate as a god, says: "A solution can be genuine and lasting only if and when it is to the full satisfaction of the people concerned." Unfortunately the regime in Beijing has not so far been able to share his belief, though the rest of the world has greatly profited from the Tibetan leader's wisdom.

Today we are living in the era of mass media and communication, but cartoons can still convey a strong message which can be grasped by all.

We have here a collection of the greatest names in Indian cartoons which paints their perceptions of the Dalai Lama as well as the often difficult relations between India and China. More than a TV program or a newspaper report, they help us to perceive the Great History behind the smaller one.

After 46 years in exile from his Himalayan home, the basic message of the Dalai Lama remains the same: each and every man on this earth is entitled to happiness and it is the responsibility of each one of us to act, speak or write in such a way to make this possible.

It is worth citing here the Dalai Lama's favourite quote (from the Buddhist sage Shantideva):

If it can be remedied
There is no need to be unhappy.
If it can't be remedied
What is the use to be unhappy?

This does not mean that one has to 'give up'. The Dalai Lama's message on the last cartoon of this exhibition gives us the faith that perseverance will help us to one day reach to our highest goals. This exhibition organised by Friends of Tibet (India) is dedicated to the Long Life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama who will be 70 years old on July 6, 2005.

May All Beings Be Happy and Enjoy the Cartoons!

See Exhibition

Friends of Tibet (India), PO Box: 16674, Bombay 400050