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China Policy in Tibet

Kishan S. Rana

By Mikel Dunham
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2004, pp. 433, Rs. 450.00


One of the joys of books is that it is the reader who determines what s/he takes from an opus. The author is like a master-chef who lays out a banquet spread of his creation; the reader takes from the offering that which takes his fancy ¾ and each reader is at least slightly different in perception and understanding. As with any of the arts, literature becomes an interplay between the originator of the rasa and the rasik; that process creates and closes the circle of interpersonal communication. Each encounter is unique. These thoughts struck me as I read the graphic, powerful narrative that Mikel Dunham has assembled in Buddha’s Warriors; his identification with the Tibetan cause is complete ¾ it is for you and me, as readers to be convinced of the arguments that he has woven. There lies the rub, at least for me.   Dunham uses the device of letting his Tibetan and other actors, interviewed in the extensive research that he carried out, speak in the direct voice, presenting quotations from their accounts in large chunks of italicized text. That makes the book readable, almost as a first person narrative, but with selected, multiple voices. But the device also leads to its own failure, in that there is nothing that resembles objective presentation of the case (though the author presents an impressive bibliography). You must buy into a single storyline. Dunham is at his best in evoking the atmosphere of old Tibet, and in the detailed accounts of the armed clashes and destruction by the Chinese rulers of new Tibet. But one must take his word that the account presented is the full picture of what actually happened; he cites very little of the Chinese perspective. Dunham presents a gripping account of the Tibetan resistance, and the character of the people of Kham, Amdo and Golok regions of Eastern Tibet who provided the backbone of resistance. He notes also the contempt that these fighters held for Lhasa politics within the entourage of the Dalai Lama and some of its personalities; Dunham juxtaposes this against the simple faith of these fiercely independent warriors. This is a romantic perspective; relying on the memory of the diaspora that the author interviews, besides the CIA handlers of the Tibetan fighters, means also that inconvenient events are air-brushed away; we only remember that which we wish, such memory does not produce historical ...

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