Freedom of press abused

By K.N. Pandita

The discovery of more than 750,000 US dollars in foreign currency equivalents in the administration office of the 17th Karmapa Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s third highest religious leader, has been used to badly tarnish what heretofore has been a heroic golden story. After two weeks of unrelenting media hype projecting the Karmapa in many dark colours, an official statement has come from the Himachal Pradesh chief secretary exonerating him of all allegations and giving him a clean chit. Many see the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, as a living Buddha as well as the next world Buddhist leader and political successor to the Dalai Lama. The latter defended the 25-year-old lama, telling reporters in Bangalore that “The Karmapa is an important lama, a spiritual leader. People from different parts of the world including many Chinese, come to seek his blessing and offer money.” However, the Tibetan leader said, “The foreign and Indian currency should have been deposited in a bank and not kept in cash at the monastery.” 

Officials in Dharamsala held a press conference Sunday to say the money, in nearly two dozen different foreign currencies, was given by the Karmapa’s followers in connection with a land deal with an Indian businessman. Reportedly a Dharamsala-based businessman is being questioned after Rs10 million (US$ 217,800) was found in his possession. An official said the money was a payment made by the Karmapa’s trust to buy land near Dharamsala. However, even if the money came from followers, there are questions whether the foreign currency violates India’s foreign currency laws.

Indian intelligence officials quizzed the Karmapa for hours, seeking details of the source of the foreign currency. Reports have emerged that he was questioned over whether he has connections with the Chinese government as a large part of the currency seized was in Chinese yuan, in wads of successive serial numbers. In December 1999 the then-14-year-old Dorjee, who was anointed by the Chinese government as the true Karmapa, pretended to go into seclusion but instead slipped out from a window of the Tsurpu Monastery in Tibet with a handful of attendants. He began a daring 1,450-kilometer winter trip across some of the most forbidding terrain on the planet by foot, horseback, train and helicopter to Dharamsala, making world headlines and embarrassing Beijing. He was given refugee status by India in 2001. How the freedom of press is misused in this country to shamelessly malign even a distinguished person is to be found in Karmapa case. The Tibetan religious leader was accused of spying, money laundering, tax evading, misappropriation and what not. He was arrested, dragged to the court and treated like a criminal. Electronic media projected him nothing less than a culprit held in custody. Nothing was left to speculation and no chance was given to television watchers to think that what was being projected could be gross exaggeration bordering on willful maligning of a person. Nothing was said of his background, the story of his flight from Tibet under the threat from Chinese illegal occupiers of Tibet and the circumstances in which Karmapa proceeded on self-imposed exile. Perhaps the timing of unearthing the money with Karmapa coincided with a situation in which the print media was engrossed in hyping mega scams like the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh high-rise building and 2 G Spectrum fraud.  Thinking that it was going to add another feather to its hat, the media clubbed the Karmapa money unearthing with the above mentioned episodes and thus tried to paint all of them with one brush.  Such was the intensity of anti-Karmapa propaganda in Indian media that pleadings of no less a person than the Dalai Lama besides the former Indian Ambassador to Mongolia made no impact. Yet with all this media hype let loose, the Karmapa did not lose his cool and bore the humiliation with fortitude. This sort of treatment meted out to a special person is unacceptable and against the shining traditions of our country. We incurred the displeasure and even enmity of China for giving asylum to the exiled Tibetan Buddhists and their supreme leader the Dalai Lama. It was done to maintain continuity of our tradition of hospitality. But unfortunately we have done something in the case of the Karmapa that makes us hang our head in shame. We did not behave as we should have.

Regularizing employees:

National Panthers Party has strongly supported the demand of contractual employees of the state government for regularization of their services. The support is not only on humanitarian grounds and the premise that ours is a welfare state. Equally important is the fact that there is an Act of the State Legislative Assembly by virtue of which all contractual employees have to be regularized if they have completed seven years of service in the government. As a matter of fact, the regularization should have happened automatically and there should not have been any need for the employees to make a stir for the same. Why that is not happening, is a mystery. The fact that the services of contractual employees were needed is in itself a proof that for efficient governance, man power has to be recruited and utilized. Having done that, the government should not behave like a contractor employing daily wagers and then winding up the shop and asking them to go home. We are passing through very hard times when inflation has almost crushed the backbone of weaker sections of society. Government cannot take shelter behind the argument that it has paucity of resources. Governments do not plan for months or decades; it needs to have a vision and foresight. A welfare state always thinks positively. Thousands of families are involved in the case of contractual employees. They should not only be regularized but their rights have to be given to them, which means full pay scale, arrears and other perks in addition to pensionery benefits and other concessions. Seven years is a long period for gaining experience in any trade or skill, and as such, they are entitled to the benefits that accrue to them by virtue of class of labour they are associated with. A humanistic view can help resolve their case.

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