The Joy of Activism/Tenzin Tsundue

Tenzin Tsundue is a Tibetan writer and activist. His first book of poems Crossing the Border was published pursuing a Masters Degree at Mumbai University. He won the Outlook-Picador Award for Non-Fiction in 2001. His second book, Kora has been translated into French and Malayalam. His third book, Semshook, a compilation of essays on the Tibetan freedom movement was published in March 2007. His writings have also appeared in on a regular basis in the Indian media and in international publications. His email id is


Tenzin Tsundue

In the early 1980s, when a government contractor arrived in the Gharwal Himalayas armed with chain-saws to fell trees for ‘urban development’, hundreds of women from nearby villages swooped on the site. By hugging the trees, they saved their forest.

Activism is that social consciousness that refuses to be cowed down under the weight of injustice and apathy, not because the cause being fought for has a high quotient of future success, but because your conscience forbids you to remain a silent witness; your efforts can bring change.

Activism starts in a rebellious mind and ends in caring motherly hands.

I am an India-born Tibetan, therefore my birth makes me responsible for the Tibetan freedom movement. But I relate very closely with all social, political and environmental issues in India and globally.

The state demands obedience, to help maintain ‘peace’; corporates nurture blind consumers. Few among us have the courage to voice dissent and risk threats to personal safety and even life. Himanshu Kumar and Irrom Sharmila are such freedom fighters of our times.

The lawyers and social activists of Alternative Law Forum and Human Rights Law Network who otherwise could be making a fortune in the great Indian litigation industry are championing justice for the disadvantaged.

Theatre activists like Jaya Aiyer and Parnab Mukherjee spread the message of humanity through the stage.

Their strength makes them fearless modern-day warriors wielding cellphones and Reynolds pens.

Tenzin Tsundue protesting across from Chinese Premiere Wen Jiabao's hotel room in Bangalore in 2005.

In our hugely globalising, interconnected world, a free Tibet is not just for the Tibetans. If the Tibetan Plateau cannot be saved from Chinese industrialisation, about two billion beings now fed by rivers from Tibet will soon face drought.

I have been an activist to free my country from China since finishing school. Sixteen years and 12 jail stints later, I am more resolved and live by selling stories and poems published in two tiny books.

As an activist, I have faced beatings by police, spent endless days in jails, but those moments of tension have been my most treasured teachers a part of my education in patience and compassion.

The essence of activism is not only about what you fight for, but more importantly how you fight. I like to keep the Buddha in my heart and Gandhi on my mind.

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