We must help save Tibet from total assimilation by China.

I am writing this post from Dharamsala (India), the seat of the Tibetan Government in exile. Two days ago I participated in the 57th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese occupying forces. The passion with which Tibetans of all ages , many of which have been born in exile, marched peacefully chanting  vigorous slogans demanding the United Nations to take action and save their beleaguered nation, impressed me greatly.

IMG_5254__1457793919_182.75.173.178Tibetans peacefully and freely commemorating the 57th Anniversary of the Uprising against the Chinese in Dharamsala (India).

On the 20th,  close to 160.000 Tibetans living in exile in over 32 countries will vote on a second round to choose  their democratically elected Prime Minister and whomever is elected has a crucial role to play in the saving their country from total assimilation by China.

IMG_0238With Dr Lobsang Sangay, current Sikyong of Tibet in exile (Prime Minister)

IMG_0241Mr Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan parliament and opposition candidate for the post of Sikyong

In contrast, the reality for close to six million Tibetans living in Tibet alongside over eight million ethnic Chinese is dramatically different. The Tibetans in Tibet have no freedom of movement to travel even within the country,  they have no freedom to practice their religion without the scrutiny of Communist officials, possessing a Tibetan flag or a photograph of the Dalai Lama or the Karmapa Lama is considered a most heinous crime and lands the perpetrator in jail where he or she will be submitted to torture and a lengthy sentence. The brutality of the Chinese invaders has no limits as can be seen by the following video:

The Chinese are not allowing tourism into Tibet as they do not want any witnesses to their savage repression. Just to mention some examples, Tibetans are segregated in schools  from the Chinese and children now barely know how to write their own language.  A Chinese worker gets paid double the salary than a Tibetan one for the same job though only good jobs are available to ethnic Chinese or Tibetan collaborators. The Tibetans are also discriminated in their access to the health system and according to the Tibetan Government in Exile, women are forcibly sterilized and even forced to have abortions and mixed marriages are encouraged.  According to international think tanks, Tibet is the most repressed country in the world behind Syria. It is actually a police state.

The following images speak for themselves:tibet

2012_China's_Agreesive_Violence_Against_Tibetan_People_中國極權暴力血腥攻擊西藏_-_圖博人

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It is clear that the long term strategy of the Chinese occupying government is the total assimilation of the Tibetans and the disappearance of their unique culture and way of life. This is clearly Cultural Genocide.

The tragic self-immolations of 144 desperate Tibetans since 2009 has not served any purpose in advancing the terrible plight of Tibetans but has been used as anti Tibetan propaganda by the cruel Chinese regime and regrettably the Western press relegates these incidents to a foot note in their  newspapers and magazines, if at all, but the reality is that Tibetans are so desperate about their plight and lack of basic freedoms that they take these sort of desperate actions.

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So the question is what is the best way forward. His Holiness The Dalai Lama, though now retired from active politics has marked the path through the Middle Way approach by which Tibet would have genuine autonomy within the Chinese constitution  but the reality is that the Chinese government is just playing a waiting game. They believe that as the Dalai Lama is 80 years old they only need to be patient and the circumstances will play in their favour to achieve their long term goal of total assimilation.

Both candidates to Prime Minister, advocate His Holiness’ Middle Way approach and do not seek total independence, though many voices specially from the impatient young Tibetans want a more violent approach and desire total independence. They lack, in my view, any pragmatism  though their frustration is totally understandable. That is why, it is my believe that the newly elected Prime Minister must take a more aggressive approach towards finding a solution.  I see as a  first step  that as soon as he takes office, he requests from a  friendly government such as India or the United States that they host direct talks with no preconditions between His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama and the President of China, with the Prime Minister of India or the U.S President as moderators in the talks depending which country is hosting them.

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The Dalai Lama is recognized world wide as a statement of impeccable integrity: a man of peace, and though retired from politic because of his stature, what he can achieve no politician whoever seasoned can. Once they sit face to face, there is a  very good chance that the Chinese will see that His Holiness is a sensible man whom they deal with and definitely is not the problem they consider he is but in fact is the only the solution to their quagmire. All talks held until now between envoys of both sides have been just another strategy by the Chinese in their game  and have  been exclusively used by them as a propaganda tool.

A master stroke by His Holiness was the crowning of Laghyari Trichen Wangchuk as the XVIIIth Lhagyari King of Tibet in Dharamsala, thirteen years ago at the age of twelve.  His father,  King Lhagyari Trichen Namgyal Gyatso, spent two decades in prison after the Chinese invasion and died in Dharamsala after he was released having served in the Tibetan government in exile. The XVIIIth  descendant of a lineage of Kings is another proof of Tibetan sovereignty whatever argument the Chinese might use and this is not counting previous dynasties of Tibetan Kings. The young King is currently living in the US and is mentored by the Dalai Lama. He travels the United States and gives talks at different universities about the plight of his people though bears not even an iota of hatred towards the Chinese.  I have no doubt that this bright young man will be called when the time is right to play a pivotal role in the future of  his country and that is obviously for me, the reason behind His Holiness official recognition.

general-banki-moonKing Lhagyari Trichen with General Banki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations in New York

Tibet is now at a crossroad and its very survival is at stake. There is no time to loose. I trust that the Tibetans in exile will choose whom they consider the best candidate as Prime Minister to act on their behalf and save their countrymen inside Tibet from total assimilation. If a solution is not found, when His Holiness is no longer with us, Tibet will explode and undoubtedly their will be a blood bath. Sadly the severe repression that will follow will mean the annihilation of the Tibetan’s dream for freedom.

China plays with all the cards in their hand and is not prepared to loose, but there is a factor that in their pride and vanity the Chinese communist regime, that sees itself as eternal, has not taken into account and that is that no regime on earth has lasted: not those of antiquity and not those of the modern era, the latest example the collapse of the Soviet union. History is there to proof it and China will be no different. China has changed so much during the last decades and the economical reforms of the regime have created a thriving middle class that will be its Achilles heel. Sooner than later this middle class will demand political reform and when that happens the Chinese regime will have reached its twilight.

In my latest book, The Twilight of the Fourth World, co-written with my sister Charis we foresee just that scenario and Tibet will be once again be free. There is a very valid reason why they say that “Thoughts become Things.”

Tiny man in dreamlike landscape made of clouds

I invite you to visit Bhopal

I visited Bhopal for the first time over  years ago, when I was doing research on my soon to be released novel, The Indian Kings of France: the fascinating story of the Bourbons of Bhopal, and I have returned on several occasions.

During my research, I was fortunate to meet members of the Royal Family who are the owners of the charming Jehan Numa Palace hotel which is a must destination when visiting the city.

jehan_numa_palace_hotelThe charming Jehun Numa Palace Hotel

The capital of Madya Pradesh unfortunately is still known world-wide for the tragic catastrophe of Union Carbide which marked its citizens for ever; but since then it has recovered from the terrible trauma and there are many reasons to visit the city. The older part of the city still bears the stamp of the Nawabs of Bhopal, who ruled the city until independence. During the 19th century, Bhopal was governed by a succession of four extraordinary Queens known as the Begums of Bhopal. These women, in a man’s world, gave the city its roads, civic institutions and important mosques and palaces. Regrettably, the local government has not taken care of this heritage and most of the palaces are in an appalling state unlike other former Kingdoms in India.

shaukatmahal1Shaukat Mahal the beautiful palace built by the Bourbons and given as a gift to the Begums is now sadly in a terrible state of decay though it is an architectural marvel of Indo-European architecture.

Please do not let this discourage you, as Bhopal is worthwhile visiting. The influence of the Bourbons , two of which were Prime Ministers of the state during the rule of the Begums, is ever present in all the historical buildings through the Fleur de Lys which was even included in the Royal Court of Arms of the Royal family. In any case, during my research, as I mentioned earlier I visited Shaukat Mahal, Sadar Manzil and Gohar Mahal which had  all been all Royal

indexGohar Mahal

residences and of course the Bhopal Church constructed by Prince Salvador of Bourbon.  Another very interesting place to visit is the Center for Performing and Visual Arts known as Bharat Bhawan  and designed by the famous architect Charles Correa in harmony with the surrounding landscape.

1348639261_940Bharat Bhawan

I would also recommend the National Museum of Mankind, this institution is spread over 200 acres on the Shamla Hills near the Upper Lake. It is among the largest open-air anthropological museums in India, and showcases tribal art and culture. The museum is located on a prehistoric site and is dotted with painted rock shelters. The outdoor space has been divided into various thematic exhibitions, which contain life-sized dwellings from coastal, desert and mountainous habitats, built by different tribal communities. Located on the hilltop, the indoor museum contains 13 galleries. There’s also a library, an audio-visual archive, and a collection of ethnographic specimens within the premises.

Bhopal  has two extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage sites: The Bhimbekta Caves ( 46 Km away which are a cluster of 14 rock shelters which house some of the best prehistoric rock art in the world. The cave paintings date back to the Mesolithic period, and explore themes such as hunting, dancing, music and animals. They also depict animals such as bisons, tigers, lions, wild boars,

index1Bhimbekta Caves

index3Details of the many amazing Prehistoric paintings

antelopes, and elephants, as well as religious and ritualistic symbols. They have been made primarily with red and white colours, with the occasional use of green and yellow. These colours were prepared using natural dyes, minerals, coal, and animal fat.

The other World Heritage site that being a Buddhist fascinated me is Sanchi as it contains some of the finest examples of ancient Buddhist architecture in India. Located at a distance of 40 Km, Sanchi is most famous for its Great Stupa, which was built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka. The stupa has four monumental gateways or ‘toranas’ covered with exquisite carvings. These depict scenes from Buddha’s life, Jataka stories and Buddhist history. Sanchi was a major Buddhist centre from the 3rd century BC until the 12th century AD, and also contains the ruins of several other stupas, temples, pillars, monasteries. Absolutely fascinating!

t_1The amazing Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi

No visit to Bhopal can finish without going what is for me probably one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. Built by Shah Jehan Begum, the 8th ruler of Bhopal ,  the Taj-ul- Masjid,  is considered one of the largest mosques in Asia. Currently under renovation it is a building of rare beauty.

index 5The extraordinary Taj-ul-Masjid built by Begum Shah Jehan

On my last visit, I decided to split my stay between the Jehun Numa Palace Hotel and the new Jehun Numa Retreat. And what a treat it was. Both establishments pride themselves in their gastronomy but all the vegetables and most of the fruits at the Retreat are sources from their own vegetable gardens that are dotted throughout the property and tendered with love by local women. The retreat is set in the midst of a lush park and has 28 suites exquisitely decorated by Her Royal Highness Begum Bano. The rooms and common areas are an epitome of what I call, understated luxury where even the smallest detail has been considered but nothing is pretentious. The pool and spa is also beautiful and simple in tone with the rest of the property.

index6The entrance to the Jehan Numa Retreat

jehan-numa-retreatThe 28 individual cottages are spacious, exquisitely decorated and have their own private verandas overlooking the vegetable gardens and an exterior shower to glance at the stars while showering!

548840_13120716590017845841_STD_wThe beautiful reception area

Bravo to His Highness Prince Zafar Rashid of Bhopal who is the director of this wonderful property and to his mother the exquisitely elegant and ravishing, Begum Sonia who I saw inspecting the property and assuring herself that even the most seasoned traveler would not leave disappointed.

And may I also suggest that if you are interested in history as I am, there is no more fascinating story than that of the Bourbon prince, Jean Phillipe, the son of the Constable of France and who ended up as Head of the Imperial Army of the Great Moghul, Akbar. His descendants, as I have mentioned before came to Bhopal and  Prince Balthazar I and later his son, Prince Sebastian were both Prime Ministers of Bhopal. So why not write to the current head of the family, Prince Balthazar IV of Bourbon-Bhopal and request an audience and listen to the fascinating first hand account of the adventures of the Indian Bourbons.

imagesH.R.H Prince Balthazar IV of Bourbon-Bhopal with his family.

I highly recommend all my readers that when they next come to India they visit Bhopal. You will not regret it.