60 Years Ago, Dalai Lama Escaped From Tibet. The Story Of His Escape

60 years of Dalai Lama escaping China-ruled Tibet - Read the story of his great escape.

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60 Years Ago, Dalai Lama Escaped From Tibet. The Story Of His Escape

Dalai Lama's escape has been called "one of the most fantastic escapes in history".


New Delhi: 

In March 1959, spiritual leader Dalai Lama escaped from his homeland in Tibet amid a Chinese crackdown. After two weeks of trek, he reached India and demanded autonomy for Tibet.

In the early 20th century, Buddhist Tibet had declared independence from China but it took back control in 1951 and sent in thousands of troops. Dalai Lama's co-existence with the Beijing authorities was tense and Tibetans feared a trap that could endanger their leader.

Thousands of Dalai Lama's supports protested demanding Chinese troops to leave. Beijing poured more troops into Tibet and eventually razed the Dalai Lama's palace. The revolt was suppressed by March 21, ending in a bloodbath.

Here is an account of his dramatic escape:

Dalai Lama left the summer palace dressed as a soldier in March 1959, news agency AFP reported, citing The Statesman. His entourage included his mother, sister, younger brother and several top officials.

They travelled for two days and two nights without stopping, on foot and on horseback.

A month's supplies were carried by mules. To cross the major 1,500-feet Brahmaputra river, they used a single boat made of yak skin.

The group then continued on foot, walking only at night through the harsh Himalayan terrain.

They had a head start on Chinese troops who had not realised the Dalai Lama had disappeared until two days later, only then sending out a ground and air dragnet, and combing monasteries where he could be hiding, reported news agency AFP.

It was called "one of the most fantastic escapes in history".

In April, an official statement provided details of his escape. "It is thanks to the affectionate support and the loyalty of his people that the Dalai Lama was able to make his way, by an extremely difficult route," it said.

"The Dalai Lama wishes to categorically state that he left Lhasa and Tibet and came to India of his own free will and not by force", it said.

India granted the Tibet leader asylum on April 3, 1959 and permission to establish a government-in-exile in the northern hill station of Dharamsala, already a sanctuary for thousands of Tibetan exiles fleeing Chinese repression.

From there he launched a campaign to reclaim Tibet, gradually easing this into an appeal for greater autonomy.

More than 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Beijing's presence in Tibet, most of them dying.

The Dalai Lama, who gave up his political role in 2011 but remains based in Dharamsala, has gained worldwide respect for his pacifist approach, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

(With Inputs From AFP)



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