Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tibetans observe Black Monday - Shaven heads held high in protest against China

Darjeeling, April 21: Lakpa Bhuti overcame her natural embarrassment and got tonsured in public to show the Tibetan men and women standing around her that nothing should come before their love for phayul (fatherland).

It was 10am at Chowrastha in Darjeeling and the Tibetans had gathered there to observe Black Monday to protest against the recent Chinese crackdown on their brethren in Tibet.

Until the moment Bhuti came forward and got her head shaved, the crowd appeared hesitant about its chosen form of protest. Bhuti’s act broke the spell.

Within seconds, the men and the women made a beeline for the nine barbers sitting at the busy crossing.

For the next one hour, the barbers worked without a break as 60-odd Tibetans from across the hills followed Bhuti’s example.

“Genocide is the only word to describe what is taking place in Tibet under the Communist rule in China. We are protesting against the Olympics because a successful Games will encourage China to carry on with the genocide,” said Bhuti, speaking with emotion after tonsuring her head.

The protesters were all dressed in black to observe Black Monday.

“It was on March 10 this year, which also happened to be a Monday, that our brothers in Tibet were brutally suppressed by the Chinese. That is why we decided to observe Black Monday. If we do not fight for our phayul, who else will?” Bhuti said.

Emotions ran high among the protesters, regardless of age and gender. The younger ones seemed bubbly and excited not just to cut off their hair but also to spend time painting each other’s tonsured head with messages for Free Tibet and the country’s flag.

The elderly, on the other hand, were deep into mediation, remembering their brothers and sisters back home.

Tsamla, 85 years old and the eldest member to take part in the protest, was seen silently turning the prayer wheel after getting tonsured.

Tashi Pecho, pushing fifty but his sense of humour intact, said: “I do not remember the last time when I did not have a single hair on my head.”

The community members also took part in a ritual where butter lamps were lighted in memory of those who had died in the Tibetan uprising. Later, members of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress marched through the town.