However, with increasing
number of Tibetan refugees in exile and limited resources available, the CTA
administration is facing the growing challenges and dilemma of not only looking
after the settlement of these refugees, but also preserving their religious
identity from the rapid forces of moderniisation in India.
Tibetans in exile are forced to exist in an economic and
social milieu (a person’s social environment) in which some characteristics of traditional Tibetan
culture, such as their business and trading acumen, are valuable, while others
are not. Tibetan language study suffers from the need for fluency in both Hindi
and English in India. Since these refugees are living in dominant Indian
cultural environment for many decades, it is natural that long and continuous
interaction with Indian culture might affect their cultural identity. It may be
noted that maintaining the distinct Tibetan culture, which is the crux of the
Tibetan condition in exile, becomes even more challenging when the refugees are
engaged in seasonal occupations and are constantly traveling to different
on foreign aid and tourism has strongly contributed to the rise of Western
influence in Tibetan exile life. Prost (2006) based on
study among Tibetans in Dharmshala, finds that
for many Tibetans and foreigners in Dharamsala, modernity is presented as a
cultural and spiritual exchange in which both parties have prescribed roles.
Tibetans share with their visitors the rich spiritual heritage of Buddhism and,
in return, may profit from some of what foreign donors have to offer:
sponsorship to children, biomedical clinics, money for temples and institutions
preserving the ‘traditions’ of Tibetan culture.
New generations of Tibetan who are born in India are facing
another challenge to catch up with the requirements of modern world and
changing requirements for livelihood along with preservation of their
threatened culture which is already being attacked by Chinese regime in Tibet
and is under pressure in exile due to continuous exposure to dominant foreign
cultures of host country i.e. India and of western culture.
Now a day,
difficulty amongst the Tibetans in exile in trying to reconcile individual
needs and community needs are clearly visible. Tibetan youth identity and educational
and occupational aspirations in exile is therefore, to be understood as
processes of negotiation and mediation. There are concerns of assimilation into
the host society’s socio-cultural milieu that is seen as defeating the very
purpose of flight to India. Difficulty in trying to reconcile these two ‘needs’
seems to be creating palpable tensions between the old and the new generation.
Back in Tibet, gaining a free hand by the departure of the Dalai Lama and
collapse of the traditional Tibetan government in 1959, the Chinese intensified
their attempts to transform Tibetan society according to the doctrines and
techniques of socialism. Traditional organisation of society was intentionally
fragmented, and an economic class basis was artificially implemented in the
society. Tibetan language was simplified, by elimination of honorific and the
introduction of “proletarian” terminology, and de-emphasised in
schools in favour of Chinese. Buddhism was eradicated as far as possible both
in its physical and spiritual forms.
Despite of above discussed challenges being faced by Tibetan
refugee community on the issue of nationalism, very high number of refugees
participate in their cultural and traditional festival with all spirit and
enthusiasm. According to them, it helps the exile community to come together.
Similarly, regular religious debates organised in various monasteries helps in
developing rapport with other monasteries and settlements. A study by Banakar B (2013) reveals that such efforts by Tibetan exile community are part of their attempt
to “re-establish their society in exile, so that if and when they go back
to Tibet, they could carry their culture back intact.
However, all these have resulted in a situation of
uncertainty of future for the community and an elusive recognition and identity
in the present as gap widen between CTA perspectives and youth aspiration.
While attainment of ‘free Tibet’ is a mirage to some, to others ‘cultural
preservation’ in its pristine form does not serve purpose as it alienates them
from the Indians and/or prevents them from relating to present global trends.
At the same time, lack of distinct identity is seen by many as defeating the
very purpose of fleeing from Tibet. For many of second and third generation
youngers, return to Tibet is not an attractive proposition nor would they
identify themselves emotionally with India. Therefore, cracks within the
refugee community on issues of identity and future are visible.
Here it is remarkable that till date, despite of the loss of
their independence, the Tibetans have neither been subsumed within the
“broad masses” of Chinese nor, in their Diasporas, they have assumed
the usual helplessness of the refugees. In the exile, they are continuously
making collective efforts to cope up with the challenges of refugee life and to
adjust in host country’s conditions to save their identity. In this process of
adjustment, many changes are taking in their society. Despite of challenges on
various fronts, the CTA has regularly tried to portray the community as
homogenous and unified a task in which it has largely succeeded till date.
Tibetan refugees today appear to constitute a nation within larger Indian
nation, yet non-inclusive in the latter. But with rapid internal as well as
external changes, identity and recognition as well as future of Tibetan
refugees especially of younger generations are now on a slippery ground and its
sustenance in the face of increasing frustration among youth seems difficult.
Hence, much more focus on the issue is required before it becomes too difficult
to be handled by the Indian leadership as well as by the Tibetan.