Bombay Times

‘They Are The Friends Of Tibet’
by Tharakan Joseph (Bombay Times. July 13, 1999)

For Sethu Das, it was an accidental trip to Dharamsala, the biggest Tibetan settlements in India, almost two years ago, that changed his life.

This computer graphics freak from Mumbai was on his way to Srinagar, when owing to some security problems, he was holed up for some time, and so decided to pay a visit to Dharamsala.

It was just the beginning. His rolling camera captured ameteurish images of tonsured heads and tormented bodies at the Buddhist monastery in Dharamsala. He shot the deapths and diversities of the unique Tibetan culture and its tradition nuances. He rubbed shoulders with ex-political prisoners, ex-army chiefs and Dalai Lama's close confidantes. His interviews of 'illegal' refugees from across the mountains showcased their tortures at the hands of the Chinese police in blood chilling frames, and offered ample glimpses of tears and toil and pain.

Back in Bombay, Das began a movement called 'Friends of Tibet (INDIA)' inspired by his experience with the exiles. Started as an e-mail club with the aim of providing news from the captured land and various Tibetan settlements in the country, it now has hundreds of members from the world over, and is growing with every passing day.

'We want to inform people about the unique cultural and religious identity of the Tibetan people, and to work to preserve that identity and assure the survival and human rights of the Tibetans,' says Das.

The Friends of Tibet (INDIA) and Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) have now joined hands to organise a week-long Tibetan festival in early 2000 in Bombay. 'We are planning a film festival, camps, seminars, music concerts, talks by religious and political leaders from Tibet all over India, including Dharamsala. The festival of Tibet in Bombay will flag off the organisation's programmes in the rest of the country' he adds.

The highlight of the festival is a panorama of Tibetan-centric documentaries and and feature films that are adored as classics. The three feature films likely to be screened are Little Buddha (by Bernardo Bertilucci), Kundun (Martin Scorcese) and Seven Years In Tibet, a film based on Henrich Harrer novel. A number of documentaries have already been lined up, including Why Are We Silent? (Garthwait & Griffin), The Shadow Circus: CIA in Tibet, Tibet: My Country, Escape From Tibet and The Tibetan Book Of The Dead I & II.

Several renowned writers, journalists, painters and human rights activists have joined hands with the organisation to make the festival the biggest event of 2000. Details are at a mouse-click away at

'Every day, over 100 Tibetan refugees cross over the Himalayas for political asylum in India. It's a struggle to keep up a dying identity, and ours is an attempt to keep the Tibetan issue alive' says Das. Among other future actvities of the organisation is a virtual showroom for Tibetan handicrafts.