- Dalai Lama - India - Tibet
From the first lights of dawn, prayers resonate in the winding streets of Dharamsala. Recently, Tibetans have multiplied ceremonies and homage to celebrate a cheerless anniversary: the Dalai Lama's 50th year of forced exile. March 10 is a symbolic date that brings together all generations in exile.
High-school students Tenzing, Tashi and Bhuchung, like all their peers, were exempted from school today to participate to the celebrations. They would not miss this event for anything. They spent their childhood in Tibet before taking the road to exile, as did thousands of others, in the steps of the Dalai Lama.
When they left five years ago, it was because their parents wanted to see them grow up as near as possible from their spiritual leader. When he appears in the monastery's courtyard, they run through the crowd to receive his blessing.
"We are all behind the Dalai Lama," said Tenzing, 14. "All the youth, like us, follow him. He is our guide. It is thanks to him we can get an education. We are very lucky. If we had stayed in Tibet, it would have never been possible."
All the young exiles grew up in the shadow of the man whom they call "His Holiness". When they arrived in India, the Dalai Lama himself gave them an envelope with a welcoming message, which is not only symbolic. They officially become citizens of the Tibetan government in exile. They are offered education, food and accommodation, as long as it is necessary.
For the youth, the 73-year-old Dalai Lama is the one who gave them a new chance in life. These days, however, some are openly criticizing his political attitude.
Time for change
Tenzin Choeying, 30, is president of the Indian branch of Students for a Free Tibet, which campaigns for an independent Tibet. He explains that 50 years of pacific struggle has not advanced the Tibetan cause.
"The Dalai Lama always speaks about forgiveness and negotiation," he said. "The Chinese are unaffected by his messages, so we need to confront the Chinese government. Look at what happened last year. All Tibetans rose and that was a significant signal for the Chinese government."
On the walls of their local organisation are pictures of last year's riots in Lhasa. For Choeying, these events mark t
he growing division between the Dalai Lama's discourse and the tired youth of Tibet.
Two refugees who want to stay under cover asked for a secret meeting a few streets away. Criticizing the Dalai Lama is still taboo.
"The Dalai Lama is too old now to understand us. His non-violence is useless. The situation in Tibet is worsening," said one.
These refugees said that the movement will inevitably harden in the coming years. 50 years after the Dalai Lama's exile and at a time when the question of his succession is increasingly urgent, the gap between him and the Tibetan youth in exile is growing. Some people who grew up in Dharamsala fear they will never see Tibet.