Tibetans have waged a resistance movement against Chinese occupation of their land since 1951. Tibet has long been seen as the abode of Buddhism and peaceful people who have been largely untouched by modern civilisation. They are happy in their mountainous abode which is associated in popular memory with meditation and Buddhist serenity.
The Chinese government regards Tibet as a part of its territory and claims sovereign rights over it. The Chinese side is very jittery at the very mention of Tibet. Immense suppression, often brutal, of the people’s movement has only resulted in adding to the conflagration than dousing the flames. Tibet is strategically important for China because of its higher altitude which gives the Chinese forces a tactical advantage over Indian forces.
Tibet’s former ruler, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile in 1959, after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and was given asylum in India. Since then he has been running a government of free Tibet from India. He has now relinquished political
power. He has always accused China of stifling Tibetan culture. Though he has said he only wants greater autonomy for Tibet, the Chinese consider the Dalai Lama to be a subversive advocate of Tibetan independence.
Tibet, known as the roof of the world ( 4,900 metres or 16,000 ft above sea level) is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang and Lhobas, and is also now inhabited by Han and Hui people.
The Tibetan economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Due to paucity of arable land, the primary occupation of the people is raising livestock, such as sheep, cattle, goats, camels, yaks, dzo and horses. The main crops grown are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes, assorted fruits and vegetables.
The people of Tibet have been protesting the Chinese occupation mostly through peaceful means, but of late they have resorted to self-immolation as a means of protest. Though a painful reality, their sacrifices have not moved the Chinese and they continue to suppress the movement brutally. During the visit of the Chinese President to New Delhi for an economic summit, a young Tibetan refugee immolated himself in front of hundreds in Delhi, and since then the movement has been rekindled among young Tibetans who are now agitating for the adoption of a more confrontationist