‘Don't Fight Terror with Terror: Dalai Lama’
by Ramananda Sengupta
( February 7, 2002)

poster: China, Get Out of Tibet

Dalai Lama addressing the press before leaving the city (Photo: Reuters)

'China, get out of Tibet', screamed a couple of posters next to the impromptu dais set up near the entrance of the small and cosy lounge in a swank Mumbai hotel on Thursday afternoon.

The strident tone of the posters, put up by the Bombay chapter of the Friends of Tibet, was in sharp contrast to the man occupying the dais, a man known for his stringent adherence to the non-violent credo.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke instead of compassion and love, and how terror ought not be fought with terror.

His sprightly step and beaming demeanour belied the fact that he had recently been released from Leelavati hospital, where he had undergone treatment for 'inflammation of the bowel'. He said that the constant travel and strain had triggered off this ailment. This sudden illness had led to the postponement midway of the 10-day Kalchakra festival, which kicked off in Bodh Gaya in Bihar on January 21.

After recounting how and when he had last had such severe stomach problems, (in 1958 and then again in 1959, the former sparked off by some grapes, 'possibly from India') he expressed his immense gratitude to all those who worked and prayed for his speedy recovery.

Though he initially brushed off a question on China's recent promise of amnesty to those Tibetans abroad who returned voluntarily to Tibet, saying, 'later', he relented seconds afterwards, to say that this would happen only when some degree of autonomy was returned to Tibet. He stressed that he did not seek independence, but respect for the Tibetan way of life, which was being relentlessly suppressed and destroyed by China.

He also pointed out that now there was an elected representative of the Tibetan people to take the struggle forward, so he was taking some time out.

'I'm on holiday,' he said with a grin.

Asked about his views on terrorism that so changed the world since 9/11, the Tibetan leader said that moments after hearing about the attacks on the US, he had written a letter to United States president George Bush, advising restraint in his reaction to the strikes. He had also lead a prayer meeting for the victims the very next day.

'The planning of this event took weeks, or months... so obviously the people who did this were smart, were intelligent... and therefore the chances were that they had been guided by negative emotions, caused by family, social, or even national difficulties,' he said.

The only way to overcome these negative emotions was through love, compassion and respect for each other, he said.

As for the future of Tibet, he said was 'optimistic'.

'China,' he said, 'was changing and these changes were likely to ensure that gradually the rule of law, democracy, freedom of the press became a reality there.' There is a new leadership emerging, and he hoped that it would take a more flexible position on the status of Tibet.

Asked whether he felt safe in India, his first response was that of incredulity. He then pointed out that he had memorised many Indian sacred texts when he was about 10 or 11.

'And besides, I have spent the better part of over 43 years of my life here in India. I'm practically Indian,' he said.