Animal Skin Clothes Burned In Tibet After Dalai Lamas Call

February 17th 2006

Dharamsala, 16 February 2006 ( - In what is most daring display of loyalty and support to the recent call by the Dalai Lama to ban using tiger and leopard skins in Tibet, Tibetans in Amdo region in eastern Tibet are making bon fires out of their animal skin clothes.
A video image in CD smuggled out of Tibet, relay racing to India reached Dharamsala, the residence of the Dalai Lama, this morning. The 20-minute video image shows thousands of Tibetans gathered around a huge bon fire of animal skins. Literally excited crowds throw their animal skin hats, shirts and cloak like dress 'Chuba' on the fire.

Nagpa who brought the CD from Nepal after secretly meeting his counterparts at the Nepal-Tibet border said: 'Tibetans in Tibet took great risks in making these images available to outside world and it reached here in record time of ten days.' Ngakpa who arrived Dharamsala thismorning, talked exclusively to Times of India. 'Though there were many people, who shot the event on camera, there was immediate curb from the chinese authorities on the photographic materials, confiscating cameras, and detaining who resisted.' He said.

Arrest of activists and tension:
The local Chinese authorities are left with no answers to the earlier such reports in World Wide Web. 'Eight youth activist have been arrested for working in 'collusion' with Dalai Lama government' said Nagpa. However, they are expected to be released soon, as the group involved three Chinese youths also. On another note, the Chinese authorities have now started calling this as results of their environmental education. However, According to Nagpa the tension between the authorities banning such public gatherings only seems to be rising as bonfires are now being set in all the places in Amdo region or Tibet.

Nagpa says: 'It first started in upper region of Amdo Ngaba, in a small town called Tsodruk. There, more than 250 fox skins were set ablaze. The fire caught heat in rest of the villages and town. On the 14 day of the Amdo New Year (9th February), at the Kirti Monastery of the middle region of Amdo Ngaba, more than ten thousand Tibetans gathered and there mass participation in burning their animal skin clothes.' This was the first major event. Since this is New Year season, Ngapa says that everywhere public gathering at monasteries became place for bonfires. Mapping the spread of activism nagpa says: 'So far monasteries like Gomang, Kirti, Se, Sargang, Togden, Nangshuk, Sowa have seen such feats. Villages are collecting animal skin clothes in truck and burning them in bon fires, and so far people calling form Tibet have estimated the worth of destroyed animal skin clothes to more than 3 billion Yuan.'

The reason seems to be obvious to ask. The Tibetan leader who was giving the Kalachakra blessings at Amravati recently called on the Tibetans to stop using animal skins like tiger and leopard. This was attended by about almost 10,000 Tibetans who came from Tibet especially for the Buddhist congregation. However, Nagpa says the Tibetans in Tibet are advocating clean environmental and loving animals as per the Buddhist way of life as reasons to ban animal skins for clothes form this New Year.

Sonam who came from Tibet in 1995, helped Nagpa to get to India, tells form his experience that from mid 1990's it has became fashion to wear exotic animal skins for show of new tastes and also as a mark of  progressiveness and affluence. 'Many of them are employees of the local Chinese government or businessmen.' Said Sonam who was visibly agrivated. 'So public gatherings of any kind - traditional festivals or communist party meetings, they became venues of public display of power dressing. Such events are captured on video and broadcast by state owned TV channels are mark of developed society. Beaming of this kind of video images almost everyday on the TV quickly caught up with people as fashion. Families may be poor in the kitchen, but when they attend functions, they dress up with leopard and otter skins in the their brocade and silk chuba and shirts' he lamented.

Expensive Clothes

Nagpa said that animal skins of leopard, fox, otter, lynx can bee seen in mass number being burnt in the bon fire. But strangely tiger skin, which is allegedly being used in Tibet, seems to be missing in the film. 'It takes 20 skins of fox to make one chuba set, and one fox coat cost 500 Yuan, so one fox skin chuba is worth 50,000 Indian rupees. Otter coats are used on the borders of Chuba as decoration. A good set of otter coat costs
6000 Yuan in China, and three otter coats are used for one chuba. Leopard skins are more in demand for men, and for a chuba set decorated by leopard skin would be five to six thousand Yuan.

Talking to India born youth activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue, he says: 'The trend seem to have caught up like a connecting act as in a revolution. What started like a religious sermon by the His Holiness the Dalai Lama in January, has now sparked a movement, giving Tibetans to come openly in the Gandhi style of Swadeshi movement where they made bon fire out of British clothes.' I am so moved to see these images of defiance and
courage by our people in Tibet. I have heard reports of such acts from Kanza and Lhasa also,' he added.

Karma, who is also a Tibetan freedom activist commented: 'these stunning acts of immediate response to the Dalai Lama's call that even after 50 years of Chinese rule in Tibet, Tibetans love and worship of their leader has remained as strong as ever.' 

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