The Hindu

‘A Rebel, A Cause’
by Pratima Asher
(The Hindu | April 29, 2004)

Tenzin Tsundue

Pratima Asher meets Tenzin Tsundue, the Tibetan social activist, who drew world attention to the cause of Tibet in a glaring way. He was in Kochi recently.

"Once as a child, my parents left me with my grandparents while they went for a movie to the next village. They said I wouldn't be able to walk back home in the night. So I broke the family water pot. My intention was that of a protest rather than to create a swamp...", so writes Tenzin Tsundue, the Tibetan activist in the book, "Creative Resistance". Tsundue was recently in Kochi with regard to a photography exhibition on the Dalai Lama and screening of films on Tibet. He is the General Secretary of Friends of Tibet, a society that calls for a debate on the position of the country.

When China invaded Tibet in 1949 Dalai Lama sought asylum in India in 1959, and ran his Tibetan government in exile. With him came thousands of Tibetan refugees who yearn to return and live as free citizens in free Tibet, a goal that seems to be a distant dream for many. While the Dalai Lama has used his pre-eminent position to advocate Tibet's cause, many Tibetan activists and thinkers are also devising methods of protest that might draw attention to, and evoke debate about the realities of the Chinese presence in their country.

Tenzin Tsundue is one such person and is deeply involved in the freedom struggle of his country. "As a Tibetan and as a person born a refugee, I have always felt that my final destination is Tibet. I have been working for Tibet all my life and will keep on doing so."

Tenzin Tsundue grabbed headlines when the Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji, visted India in 2001. "We wanted him to know that we were not happy with what was happening in Tibet. The Tibetans had already protested in many ways, through rallies, marches etc. I came to know that he was staying at the Oberoi Towers in Mumbai." After studying the hotel structure for about a week, he decided that he would climb to the fourteenth floor through the "scaffolding used by the workers for repair work." Zhu was addressing a conference on the fourteenth floor and having reached there, Tsundue unfurled the Tibetan National flag. Needless to describe the sensation he created.

Tenzin Tsundue believes that it drew a great deal of attention. He of course was taken into custody and it made people ask why a man should risk his life to do such a thing. Mr Tsundue describes the rationale behind the event in some detail in "Creative Resistance", an issue which brings together many influential and offbeat opinions, connected with the Tibetan cause.