Nepal cracks down on Tibet war veterans welfare group

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Thursday, February 17, 2011

KATHMANDU - The Nepal police has cracked down on an organisation looking after Tibetan resistance fighters, who fought a long guerrilla war against the Chinese invasion and annexation of their country in the 1950s and 1960s, without any provocation, a rights group said.

Police in riot gear Sunday shut down local elections for the leadership of the Chushi Gangdruk, a Tibetan community group principally looking after the welfare of veterans of the Tibetan resistance force that battled the Chinese People’s Liberation Army from 1958 to 1974, the New York-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said Thursday.

According to ICT, Kathmandu police Sunday raided three locations where the voting was taking place: Swoyambhu, Jawalakhel and Boudha — areas in Kathmandu valley with a concentration of Tibetan refugees.

Around 10 a.m., a van arrived at the voting hall in Boudha and police wearing riot-gear and carrying guns and batons said the raid was ordered by the chief district officer on the ground that Tibetans were prohibited from taking part in any election.

A member of the Chushi Gangdruk election committee, whose name was not disclosed, said the voting was to choose local community representatives so that “when someone is sick we can take them to the hospital or when someone dies we can take the corpse to the graveyard”.

The organisation said it helps poor and homeless people, cleans the streets and looks after the environment in the Tibetan community.

The ballot box was confiscated and police monitored the area till evening to ensure that fresh elections could not be held.

Ironically, the new crackdown came even as the US Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero, who is also the special coordinator for Tibetan Issues, was on a three-day visit to Kathmandu to look into refugee issues.

During her visit, Otero had met Tibetan refugees and urged Nepals government to allow them free passage to India without restrictions.

She had also pledged the continued support of the US government for the safety and welfare of Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

Last year, Nepals police also prevented Tibetans from taking part in elections to the government-in-exile of Tibetan leader Dalai Lama in Dharamshala in India.

ICT said Nepal’s “One China policy” is frequently invoked by authorities as the reason to shut down community activities in the Tibetan community that had previously been allowed, such as the Chushi Gandruk elections and celebrations of the Dalai Lama’s birthday.

The link between China’s aggression against Tibetans and Nepalese police actions has contributed to an environment of fear and insecurity in Nepal’s Tibetan communities, it said.

Under Chinese pressure, Nepal has also refused to recognise as refugees those who arrived after 1989, significantly limiting their social, economic, political and civil rights.

Tibetan refugees are also not allowed to register marriages and the birth of children.

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