No more running [biography]

My name is Lukar Jam Atsok. I was born in the nomadic grasslands of Amdo, Eastern Tibet. As I grew up and realized that I was a human being, I felt extremely happy. I was happy to see the grasslands, the fact that I had a mother and a family. I realized that I was not only human, but also a male. Back then, in our community, males enjoyed high status.

The first experience that left a lasting impression on my mind, as a child growing up, was when I saw an eagle swooping down upon a helpless bird and carrying it way. When I saw this, I wished I had wings so that I could fly and rescue the bird from the claws of the eagle. It dawned on me that one should have wings, and the fact that I did not really pained me.

The second experience that left a lasting impression on me was when I saw an ocean for the first time, after coming into exile in India. The sea was a huge contrast to the Tibetan plateau, which is a dry landmass. The wide expanse of the ocean made me realize how fragile the earth can be, and how small and insignificant we humans are. I realized that compared to the natural world, humans have limited capacities.

The third experience that left a lasting impression on me was when I was imprisoned by the Chinese authorities. As I was being pushed into a big prison, and as the prison authorities locked the door from outside, I realized how powerless humans could be. I realized that a lone individual cannot fight oppression: to overcome oppression, there has to be collective resistance.

While in prison, I suffered brutal torture and almost died. Later, when I was released on medical parole and when I fled Tibet and arrived in exile in India, I had to undergo an operation at a hospital. In the hospital, it was actually an Indian who gave me blood.

I am supposed to be a political prisoner. In Tibet there are around 3000 political prisoners. Compared to them, I was a little more fortunate. I was fortunate because I did not die from being tortured. I was able to escape to India. But there are many who could not escape. They died in prison. Although I am fortunate, I am powerless compared to the political prisoners that remain inside Tibet. They are still resisting the Chinese.

I feel very sad that I had to escape to India. At times, I wondered if I should return to Tibet and join my fellow political prisoners. But when I reflect further, I realize that there are enough political prisoners inside Tibet. We are not lacking in them. The few of us who could escape are precious as well. Here in exile, we can do something for our comrades inside Tibet. Such circumstances compel me to live in exile.

Tibet is being colonized by a foreign nation called China. We must realize the fact that Tibet will never progress under China’s colonization. This political awakening is the key to saving Tibet. Therefore, if we really want to save the Tibetan nation, we have to seek independence. It is indispensable.

As far as I am concerned, whether I can regain Tibet’s independence or not, the slogan ‘Tibetan independence’ is very precious to me. Seeking Tibet’s independence is noble work. A trivial person cannot do it. I subject myself to critical reflection, to make sure that I maintain my personal character and integrity.

Therefore, I continue my study and work on my own character and integrity. I have to show the right path to at least my people, if not to other oppressed nations. It has been almost 17 years since I came to India as an exile. Through these years, for my own personal interest, I could have moved to and settled in other countries. But the reason I continued to remain in exile in India—and I cannot say if it helps our struggle—is that I do not want to escape any more. I have fled Tibet. I do not want to flee any more. It makes me unhappy. I have escaped enough.

I am a poet. I talk about human emotions. As a writer, I cannot live far away from my people. To express the desires, aspirations and dreams of my people, I have to live with them. I have to live in Tibetan communities, in areas where Tibetan culture is strong.

Although I could not live inside Tibet, it makes a lot of difference living in the foothills of the Himalayas, which have strong cultural influences from Tibet. Living in Dharamsala helps me as a writer.

In the beginning I thought, as an activist, I should not marry. I remained single for many years. But I realized that to create human communities, it is important to have a family. I felt a person is sort of incomplete if he remains single forever. Therefore I decided to marry and have a family at the age of 37. I now have a wife and son. I feel sort of complete.

If I were to talk about my personal difficulties, I have lost both my parents. They died in Tibet. My father died recently. My mother had a fervent wish to see me. She wanted me to visit her in Tibet. She expressed this wish many times. She made many attempts to visit India to see me. But neither could I visit Tibet, nor could she come to India. My father also had the same wish. He too died without having fulfilled his wish to see me.

One thing that really worries me is that if Tibetan people do not resist and rebel against oppression and slavery, it will have a corroding effect on our lives. Failure to resist and rebel will weaken and destroy our lives, our families. The loss of our nation means the loss of our personal lives.

I am 43 now. I have decided to dedicate the rest of my life for Tibet and the Tibetan people. The reason why we have to work for the restoration of our nation is, perhaps, not for the sake of the next generation; nor perhaps for this generation. It is because we are born as Tibetans. It is our fate; we cannot change it.

The restoration of Tibetan freedom is the “hope of the living and the will of the dead.” We cannot escape it. It is a responsibility that history has bestowed upon us. Irrespective of what path Tibetans choose in future, whether they will seek independence or not, as far as I am concerned, I cannot give up the struggle to regain Tibetan independence.

Our nation is a legacy of our ancestors. I cannot give it up. This is the conclusion that I have drawn out of my life.