Torture e Laogai: I ricordi di una suora tibetana

In occasione del 50esimo anniversario della rivolta tibetana, una monaca di 73 anni, Anila, ricorda le torture e le violenze che ha vissuto nel 1959, quando l’Armata rossa cinese ha invaso Lhasa. Ci sono voluti più di 20 anni, spiega la religiosa, per riuscire a raggiungere l’India e a ricongiungersi con il marito.  Anila ha resistito al dolore della separazione, ma sopratutto al dolore fisico delle torture e dei campi di lavoro.

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On the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising, 73-year-old Tibetan nun Anila recalls the torture and violence she experienced in 1959, when the Red Army overran Lhasa. It took her more than 20 years to make her way to India and be reunited with her husband
Anila’s frail body, wrapped in her maroon robes, does not betray the harsh conditions she has survived in her youth. She has survived the pain of being separated from her husband, hard labour camp, and torture. She offers us a bowl of sweets, welcoming us into her home in Dharamshala, the refuge of Tibetans in exile in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
“I’m happy that our youth are struggling for the Tibetan cause. I’m very proud of them. I know we will gain independence even after I die. Even though I have suffered from the age of 24, I know everything will be all right because our Dalai Lama is still alive. That’s why I have faith. Some day, we will be free.”

It’s been 50 years since the 1959 Tibetan Uprising failed to win back Tibet for its people, but the long struggle has not dented this old survivor’s belief that right will prevail. Despite the sacrifice of thousands of lives, Tibet continues to be occupied by the Chinese Army and the 73-year-old Tibetan nun continues to hope for a better future.

“Our enemy is the worst of its kind, but we have truth on our side, and we are on the right side. I believe in karma – cause and effect – I have no doubt Tibet will be free,” says Anila.

“All was well in Tibet before the Chinese arrived (in 1950). I was only 10 years old then,” she recalls. “Life was good until then. I went to school, worked at home and lived a happy life with my family.”

Anila was born in the village of Chamdo in eastern Tibet. Her village was one of the first to be taken over by the occupying Chinese forces. Initially, there was no trouble. “The forces were present everywhere but they did no harm and were good to us. But for some reason, we never trusted them.”

At 21, Anila married and moved to Lhasa. Till 1959, there was no oppression by the Red Army, Anila recalls. They would help the villagers by distributing food and luxury items, tackle unemployment, pay children to attend school and started women’s organisations to win the trust of the masses. But as time passed, the Chinese troops moved into the capital Lhasa, and there were rumours that they were going to occupy it.

As the Tibetans resisted, the army unleashed unbridled violence on the locals. “They started shelling our villages and killing people at random. People began to protest. I couldn’t do much at the time as I was pregnant with my second daughter,” says Anila.

Her husband was a highly placed official, who worked closely with the Dalai Lama and had been privy to the daily meetings at the palace and reports of Chinese aggression from different parts of Tibet. Rumours that Lhasa would be taken over by the Chinese and that the Dalai Lama was going to be abducted by the army brought emotions to a boiling point. Some 30,000 Tibetans came out onto the streets to protect His Holiness. The situation deteriorated so quickly that by afternoon, recalls Anila, the Chinese troops had started shooting people in the streets.

From her terrace that day Anila saw a neighbour shot dead on his terrace. Pointing to her forehead, she cries, “Here’s where they shot him.” Worried for the safety of her family, she begged her husband to stay home, “but we were very worried about His Holiness. My husband, who was sworn to secrecy at the time, told me not to worry and that His Holiness had fled from the palace three days ago, and was safe.

“My husband was on duty and had to leave for Tsunklakhang temple in Lhasa. People were making holes in their walls to escape the shelling and the shooting. We were so desperate. I thought the house was going to collapse on us, so I stepped outside to seek a way out. I rushed back home the next day when I saw a Chinese tank at the gate.”

The following day, Chinese soldiers with bayonets marched into all homes, hunting for the men. Even the sick were not spared, Anila laments. “The children would be petrified every time a new group of soldiers rummaged through our home. This went on for days.” Anila paid the price for her husband’s job and for her brother who had joined the volunteer army. The Chinese branded her an outlaw and placed her under house arrest. All her belongings were confiscated; she was tortured and sent to a labour camp to work while her children remained unsupervised at home.

“The clothes we were wearing were all we were left with. Everything else was taken away. I had to report to the army every week. Thrice a week they would deprive us of sleep, soldiers would keep the family awake as a tool of torture,” she says. All this while she had no news of her husband and did not know if he was alive or dead.

In 1979, the first Tibetan envoys — a fact-finding delegation of the Tibetan government –in-exile – began a tour of Tibet. That is when Anila heard the news she was thirsting to hear. Her husband was alive and well in Bhutan. For the next two years, she pleaded with the Chinese to release her so she could go to India, but they would not hear of it.

In 1981, Anila finally got permission from the Chinese to go to India. She boarded a truck from Lhasa to Dum village on the Tibetan border together with her daughter and granddaughter. The truck got washed away by a ferocious river, and Anila and 22 other Tibetans walked for three days until they reached the Nepal border. From there, many were reunited with their worried relatives living in a refugee camp in the southern state of Karnataka in India. But not Anila. The wait for her husband continued for another six months, when the family was finally reunited and their application to move to Dharamshala was accepted.

Anila was in her late-40s when she chose to become a nun because she wanted to renounce the world. Her husband has passed on and today she lives with her granddaughter, a teacher. Her younger daughter has returned to Tibet. Anila has no regrets about this. “If we all leave, then who will stay there on our captured land?” she asks.

Dilnaz Boga
InfoChange[Saturday, May 02, 2009 10:48]posted on DossierTibet, 2 may 2009

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