India and Tibet had an amicable mutual relationship, much before, when Tibet was annexed by China in 1951. The two countries shared extensive commerce, cultural exchange and diplomatic communication across what is now termed as the Sino-Indian border. This relationship extended during the British period and especially during the first two years after India achieved its independence. India’s position regarding the annexation of Tibet, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, had always been pro-Tibet, which since then had invited a trouble in Sino-Indian foreign diplomatic relations. Tibet was forced to sign the famous 17-point agreement, which said that Tibet is and was always part of China. Nor India did interfere; neither had it accepted this agreement from its heart.
Tibetan population had never accepted Chinese military occupation and then the annexure of Tibet in Chinese territory. Riots and rebellion was the order of the day. The final inflammation was in 1959, when the Chinese military had crushed a popular uprising in Lhasa, the Lhasa Uprising, which had killed thousands of Tibetan youths. The fourteenth Dalai Lama also had to flee from Tibet and reached Northern India, and with him, came about one-lakh followers. This time, India could no longer be neutral to this Tibet problem, and had generously offered Dalai Lama and his immediate retinue protection and refuge. Yet India though could not afford to directly combat China, and thus had played a diplomatic game. India remained silent and equally ambiguous to the legal ‘Indian’ status of Dalai Lama. Till date Dalai Lama is an honored guest in India, and has not received the refugee status.
Regarding the Tibetan refugees, who had come to India, following Dalai Lama, suffered the same fate. Initially, they were not given the refugee status or the citizenship in India. They lived a life in exile and eventually treated as foreigners in India. From North India, they were been rehabilitated in various parts of the country. Both the Governments of two countries figured out various means to find ways as support to these Tibetan people living life in exile. In South India, colonies were formed, where they got lands for agriculture and thus find out ways towards their livelihood. The influx of Tibetan refugees though never stopped. It was only in 2015, when the Chinese Government had implemented stringent laws to lessen the influx of Tibetan refugees to India.
They first worked as manual laborers in India for various public works such as road building, which were required in the nascent independent country. Later, when they got a land for their rehabilitation, they had decided to build a community workshop cum residence for themselves, which would earn their livelihood, which came to be known as Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center. Tibet was not economically a developed nation. It was also another reason cited by the Chinese Government that Tibet was mechanically kept out of modernity for the benefit of the religious monks. The rich cultural heritage and the ample natural resources of Tibet had always drawn special interests of other countries, especially China.
It has been long years though the stigma of the refugee and intruder has not left the Tibetan people in India. Tibet for these people holds a deep longing for homeland where they want to go back, when Tibet would be free. They remember their Tibet, its majestic mountains, political history (frozen in the palaces), their language, their cultural practices through music and dance. Their sense of history, their existence in religious surrender to Buddhism and Dalai Lama, is embedded in their musical performance. They pay tribute to their present homeland, through the tunes that take them to the land, where they still belong to.