Really, enough already. The Save Tibet movement may be the biggest scam you’ll ever encounter while traveling in India.
When I first began traveling in India a few years ago you couldn’t help but see Free Tibet signs here and there. When I returned to North India in 2009, around the time of the 50th year of the Free Tibet movement, the amount of signs and posters assaulting the eyes was overwhelming. But I also started seeing signs for Free Palestine! Where does it end?
This got me thinking then and still yet today; how many foreigners take the time to perform due diligence in regards to Save Tibet? How many travelers ask questions about the “facts” they are accosted with when traveling in popular tourist towns like Dharamsala or Mcleodganj?
I understand the meaning behind the Save Tibet movement. I even agree that what occurred with Tibet at the hands of the Chinese government was not fair. So I did some digging around, asking local Himachalis what they knew about the Save Tibet efforts. The results were rather startling.
Here are the facts that the “enlightened” wannabe hippies who flock to Mcleodganj and jump onto the Save Tibet cause either don’t seem to seek out, forget, justify, or flat out ignore:
- India Government granted asylum to Tibetan refugees
- India Government provided free land for Tibetan refugees
- India Government allowed Tibet to set up their government inside the borders of India
- Tibetans are some of the wealthiest residents in India, thanks to the free land granted by India, by becoming growers of Himachal apples.
- Save Tibet NGO’s (charities) are big businesses for many Tibetans. Often these storefront NGO’s do not properly register with the government of India, thus operating illegally. Photos and forged documents are shown to perspective donors highlighting the benefits of the fake Save Tibet programs. The reality in these scenarios is that there are no programs, the money goes directly into pockets of the Tibetan NGO operators.
- Tibetan Monks walk around with new sneakers and iPhones, eat in local restaurants from budget to high-end, own cars (which most Indians can’t afford), and openly engage in rampant sexual relations with foreign tourists. Tibetans would still have you believe they are a suppressed and enlightened population?
How can you willingly purchase shoes made in China, if said country is suppressing your people? How can you purchase iPhones, iPads, or anything Apple knowing that these products are all manufactured in China? Is that not hypocrisy on the same level that Tibetans are “fighting” to undue by Chinese?
- Monies received from fake Save Tibet NGO’s, real NGO’s, apple farming on the free land India provided, plus countless items sold to unsuspecting tourists such as hats, wallets, keychains, jackets, T-shirts, etc. emblazoned with FREE TIBET, end up in the form of luxury homes, vehicles, accessories and other objects that go along with a lifestyle inconsistent of a struggling refugee.
I applaud Tibetans using India’s capitalistic society to make the most from their humble beginnings. Running restaurants, being merchants selling Tibetan items to tourists, farming and running other businesses is upstanding.
My issue is, many Tibetans have hijacked a real issue (Save Tibet) through the years and turned it into a big money making machine for themselves. This process has turned into nothing more than exploitation of their own people, an issue in which they are supposedly trying to prevent China from doing.
People are so consumed with the movement that they don’t even question the realities. Excessive purchasing of items which will be disposed of into non-existent India landfills for a leader with no real power does not Save Tibet or free it from the grasp of China. It continues to siphon money from one demographic (the weak, the foolhardy, rich suburban kids who flee hard work in western countries to “play” in India for 6 months) into another (wealthy Tibetans).
When the Save Tibet cause produces signs marking 50 years of exile, 50 years of uprising, 50 years of fighting as if it was the 50th annual Save the Whales Benefit, your movement is no longer a cause…it’s a business.