All-party MP group to seek Bharat Ratna for Dalai Lama

THE ALL-PARTY Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet has decided to urge the government to confer the Bharat Ratna on the Dalai Lama and sought a joint session of Parliament to be addressed by him. It has also proposed the adoption of a policy on the lines of the United States’ Tibetan Policy and Support Act.

The forum, which has more than 20 MPs including from the BJP, has decided to urge all MPs to take special care to address and resolve the issues of Tibetans living in different parts of the country, in consultation with the local authorities.

Following its revival last year, the forum had held its first meeting and some of its MPs had attended a dinner hosted by the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile last December. In an unusual move, the Chinese Embassy in Delhi had written to them, expressing concern and asking them to “refrain from providing support to the Tibetan independent forces”.

Asked about this, Sujeet Kumar, BJD MP in Rajya Sabha who is the convenor of the forum, said: “Let them react… The Chinese Embassy has no locus standi to oppose, because we are MPs in a democratic country. We have every right to pass resolutions and the Chinese Embassy does not have to tell us what to do.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, he said: “If we pass a resolution seeking Tibet to be an independent country, it would have been a bit too much, because India has a one-China policy. What we are asking for is to address the issues concerning the Tibetans living here. We are asking for protection of the ecology (of Tibet) because it’s important for downstream India.”

At a meeting of the forum earlier this month, Kumar expressed his objection to “the intervention of the Chinese Communist regime in the reincarnation of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama”, stating that only the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people have the right to decide on the matter.

According to the minutes of the meeting, senior BJP leader and former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi proposed a Bill on the lines of the US Tibetan Policy and Support Act. He also suggested that the Dalai Lama should be invited to address a joint session of Parliament. The forum will request Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar to invite the Dalai Lama to address the MPs at Central Hall.

Another BJP MP, Tapir Gao from Arunachal Pradesh, proposed “a big rally by the forum members in support of Tibet which will create awareness and attention on the Tibet issue”.

Among the other BJP MPs present at the meeting were Rajendra Agrawal, Ashok Bajpai, Lehar Singh Siroya and Vinay Dinu Tendulkar.

Sikkim Democratic Front’s Rajya Sabha MP Hishey Lachungpa proposed a joint petition by the MPs seeking the Bharat Ratna for Dalai Lama. Accordingly, the forum has decided to prepare a joint petition in this regard.

The members of the forum have also decided to participate in the Tibetan Democracy Day on September 2, and Tibetan Parliament session from September 7-16.

Kumar has also prepared a Private Member’s Bill seeking a Tibet Policy Act, which asks the government to appoint a special coordinator within the Ministry of External Affairs for Tibetan-related issues, to promote “substantive dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama and his representatives or democratically-elected leaders of the Tibetan community, among other things”.

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The special coordinator, the Bill says, should establish international diplomatic coalitions to oppose any move by the Chinese government to “select, educate, and venerate Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders in a manner inconsistent with Tibetan Buddhism in which the succession or identification of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, including the Dalai Lama, should occur without interference, in a manner consistent with Tibetan Buddhists’ beliefs.”

He has also asked the government to allocate a fund — not less than Rs 3 million — in the Union Budget to assist the democratic activities of Tibetan refugees in India.

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