The calm of Dharamsala, the forested retreat where the Dalai Lama and 8,000 other Tibetan monks and refugees have been living since 1960, was shattered on 22 April when an Indian youth, who belonged to a caste of shepherds known as the gaddis, was stabbed to death by a Tibetan in a fight which developed over an India versus Pakistan cricket match on television.
During the funeral Krishan Kapoor, a politician belonging to the rightwing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), yanked the shroud off the corpse, reached into the cadaver's open stomach, pulled out a length of intestine, and held it high. 'This is what the Tibetans have done]' he yelled.
The mourners went berserk. Shouting 'Death to the Dalai Lama]' and 'Long Live Deng Xiaoping]' the mob stormed the compound of the Tibetan government-in-exile, smashed windows, set fires and destroyed furniture. They then looted Tibetan shops and beat up refugees.
Not to be outdone by Mr Kapoor, the rival Congress politician, a shrill ex-princess named Chandresh Kumari, helped circulate a petition calling for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans to get out of India. The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was abroad during these events, but in a statement he said: 'To avoid a conflict becoming a major problem in the future, it is best that I move out of Dharamsala. I am very, very sad that an individual incident has, unfortunately, been allowed to be manipulated by local politicians and this makes it serious.' He mentioned moving to Bangalore, in southern India, which would mean dismantling the government-in-exile's offices, Tibetan medicine centres, libraries, monasteries and schools. In all, more than 100,000 Tibetan refugees are scattered around the country.
In goading the gaddis against the Tibetans, both Mr Kapoor and Ms Kumari are aiming to pick up support from the poor but numerous shepherds' community. Even before the stabbing, the gaddis' resentment against the refugees was high. They blame them for driving up land prices and envy the prosperity of some Tibetan shopowners.
One recent pamphlet warned: 'If you Tibetans do not leave Dharamsala by 25 July, we will bomb you out.'Reuse content