Tenzin Tsundue (Tändzin Cöndü)

* 1973

  • „In 2002/2003, after my stay in Bombay, I came back to Dharamsala. That was the time I started to slowly imagine a mass return to Tibet, where Tibetan refugees would say Thank you India for the asylum, now we return the paper and we go back to Tibet. We were willing to face any kind of situation, at the border or after being inside. But we planned to do that at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This was a very different kind of approach. We started with 100 Tibetans. That was the initial goal, to have 100 Tibetans march from Dharamsala to Delhi and the plan was to make the march bigger by adding more numbers of people, which we later did. The strategic plan was to keep adding numbers and inviting Indian and global participation. The Indian and global participation did not happen. But the numbers kept on growing. We started with 100 people and when we reached Delhi, after Delhi we added more people. Ultimately, when we reached near the Tibet border, we were about 400 people. In that way it was success, but the larger goal of making it into a mass return did not happen. But the real surprise was, before that march could reach to any place, we first heard about the protests inside Tibet, which went on for four days. And on the fourth day, there was a massive, violent clampdown on the side of the Chinese authorities. This attracted a lot of attention. And this Tibetan protest and clampdown, throwing rocks, burning Chinese offices, and violent Chinese clampdown, went on for almost two months. It brought a lot of attention to the issue of Tibet for the first time, because Beijing 2008 Olympics was to happen after few months. And then, towards the end, when we reached Darjula, which was the last border town, we were around 75 people. That was the furthest we could go towards the Tibetan border. This was what India was allowing us.“

  • “In terms of arrest, political arrest, I have been to 16 different jails. Mostly in India, and also in Tibet. Going to jail for me, now when I look at it, these are really high moments of spiritual growth. Going to jail humbles you, going to jail gives you a completely new meaning of freedom. We think that jail denies you freedom, but once you go to jail, it humbles you, it makes you understand real value of freedom. And the humility that you learn from jail actually frees you from your ego, from our sense of something that is dirty, bellow our standard, not wanting – like sleeping on the floor with shoes as your pillow and short as your blanket, the handkerchief you are carrying as your towel and your finger as your toothbrush. Once you are able to do this, when you come out, you feel much more liberated. Spiritually. Because of the sense of liberation I have experienced in jail, I think freedom is in jail. When you reflect like this. Otherwise, when you think that jail deprives you of freedom and you suffer, then when you come out, you come just being negative. For freedom fighters, there´s no space for negativity, because then you don´t last long.”

  • „And then they took me to different places, blindfolded me, interrogated me. Finally, they jailed me in Naghri District Jail. The Chinese can´t pronounce Naghri, so they say Ali. I was in this jail for about 12 days, during which I received a lot of beatings and I cried a lot. I was 22, completely inexperienced, I had never been in jail. And towards the end they decided that senior officials in Lhasa wanted to see me. On 12th March 1997, they put me in a car, blindfolded me and drove me. They said they are going to take me to Lhasa. Lhasa was really far from there, almost 1700 km. And that too with no solid road, just desert road. It took us three days to travel to Lhasa. On the 15th or 16th March, they took me to a jail in Lhasa and locked me there. I was there for another two and half months, or something.“

  • “I found myself completely lost. You see, this is the dreamy, romantic freedom fighter who actually had really no idea of the situation there or the people. But then I had the courage to go there and meet almost a deadlock situation. I got lost in the mountains. And this is the Ladakh – Tibet border, 4000 meters above the sea level. Could desert, where it is burning hot during daytime and freezing cold in the night. The entire Indus river was frozen like a giant snake. This was March of 1997. After five days of walking across the borders I got arrested on the fifth day. And that too by a Tibetan. A Tibetan nomad working for the Chinese security. He hold me by my collar and said: ´You wanderer! Why have you come here? Who sent you? Are you carrying any weapons on you?´”

  • “Our grandmother used to tell us stories about Tibet, about snow-mountains, yaks, apples, apricots, peaches. About pasture land, about nomadic life. Things we could neither see, nor imagine. But we all believed in her stories. She told us there is a country called Tibet they left behind. They were saying we are here in India temporarily and one day we will go back to our country. But at the moment there are the Chinese who had occupied our country. Some day they too will have to go to their own country and then we will come back to Tibet. We were told right there in the initial years of growing up, that our life there is temporary and we will go back to this country of memories our grandmother used to tell us.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 27.04.2022

    duration: 02:04:39
    media recorded in project Memory of Tibet
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Return to Tibet

Tenzin Tsundue in Post Bellum studio, Prague 2022
Tenzin Tsundue in Post Bellum studio, Prague 2022
photo: Recording

Born in an Indian refugee camp, he does not know his exact date of birth. He grew up listening to fairy tales and songs about Tibet, the land of his ancestry where his parents were born. Througout his life he has been longing to return there. In 1997, as a young man, he tried to get there and crossed the Himalayas on foot, only to subsequently spend three months in Chinese prisons. In 2008 he organised a mass “march on Tibet” with hundreds of Tibetan refugee participants, that was not welcomed and stopped by Indian authorities. He studied English language and literature at the Univeristy of Madras, he published many books and poems, but the main focus of his life lies on renewal of freedom and independence of the Tibetan nation. Through political happenings and protests on occassions of official Chinese visits in India, he has been drawing public attention to the disrespect to human rights in Tibet and China. He has been imprisoned for these activities sixteen times, but he considers imprisonment as a way towards further spiritual growth. Tenzin Tsundue - an exiled Tibetan poet and political activist.