Thursday, February 03, 2011

Indian Police General Blasts Tai Situ Rinpoche: "Criminal Past"

"In order that you are fully informed as to the situation, we are attaching a fact sheet here that you can refer to in case you are responding to media. However, we ask that you not seek press coverage if this is not a major story in your national press.

"Please do not point fingers at anyone or be drawn into speculation about motivations. Please do not speak negatively in any way of the Indian government. Please express our collective gratitude to the Indian Government for giving refuge to His Holiness and to the Tibetan people in their hour of need.  We cannot stress these two points strongly enough."
Karma Chungyalpa, 
Spokesman for the Karmapa Office,

There is no gun to anybody's head over the Karmapa story in America.

Like it or not, the story has traction -- or "legs" as they say.  Herd journalism works that way: it stampedes where it is pointed. The story is being followed internationally, by the likes of BBC, the American broadcast networks, and the big wire services. You do not clean up this kind of a story by telling people what they should and should not write, or by trying to pretend that it is something other than it is. Shotgun spin control is what gives it traction in the first place.

When it comes to the "Karmapa's Chinese Cash" story, the Indian media are getting their quotes from Himachal Pradesh state officials, who are quite openly and obviously operating from a well-defined agenda.

Today, that agenda dropped a veil with a blast from Himachal Pradesh Director General of Police D.S. Minhas, in a story running wide-open with the hook "Karmapa aides have criminal past: Himachal Pradesh DGP." As the Karmapa cash story has developed, Minhas -- a close political ally of rogue Himachal Pradesh politico Prem Kumar Dhumal -- has been a constant source of strident commentary directed against Tibetan refugees in general, His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa in particular, and now Tai Situ.

In the springtime, a cuckoo comes as a guest.
In the fall when the harvest ripens,
it knows where to go:
Its only thought is travel to the east of India.
In the lofty land of Tibet, the inhabitants, high and low,
And in particular, you, Tai Situ, the Lord and
Protector Maitreya,
Who remains above the crown of our head,
May your activities, like the sun and moon set in space,
Be continuous, stable, and without hindrance.
I pray that we meet again and again.
                                    -- Sixteenth Karmapa
It is Minhas who has been operating the wiretaps against the Karmapa at Gyuto Monastery and elsewhere, it is Minhas who coordinated the raids, it is Minhas who claims the currency his officers seized is consecutively-numbered, and it is Minhas who is slated to head the secret Tibetan Refugee Intelligence Unit that Dhumal has proposed, which we reported earlier this week.

For a police official of his stature, and intimate involvement with the case, to issue a stream of inflammatory press statements in order to spin public opinion -- acting as judge and jury -- is professionally irresponsible, if not downright malicious.

In the theater of malicious prosecution, the only way to defend yourself is to get in front of the story and turn on the bright lights. That has already been proved in this case. When the bright lights turned on the blustering Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, he responded by backtracking, issuing a rather panicked if not absolutely disingenuous statement, telling the Press Trust of India:
"The state government has nothing to do with the issue of seizure of foreign currency from a transit home of the 17th Karmapa."
Pardon us. Those aren't state police officers carrying a trunk full of cash out of Gyuto Monastery? Maybe the press photographers who were tipped off by Dhumal's office to the raid didn't photograph what we see in the photograph below? It appears Dhumal is no stranger to Kafkaesque statecraft, as he is now even pressuring the Tibetan refugees in Himachal Pradesh to stop their demonstrations in support of the Karmapa.

Here is the "criminal past" story in its entirety, as running on CNN-IBN and internationally. You can watch the video by clicking the link just given:
Himachal Pradesh Director General of Police DS Minhas says the Karmapa Lama Ugyen Trinley Dorje has Chinese links and his aides have a criminal past. Speaking exclusively to CNN-IBN, Minhas says that Karmapa and his aides have been buying properties in India even though as Tibetans refugees they cannot do so legally. 
CNN-IBN: There are lot of controversies about the Karmapa and that he has links with China. he is a Tibetan and Tibetans are not allowed to buy property and anyone who is not a resident of Himachal Pradesh cannot buy property in the state.
DS Minhas: In case of Himachal Pradesh they were negotiating a big property deal in Trilokpur which was later on when it came to the notice of the Government of India, the Enforcement Directorate started looking into it and it was put on hold. But they had signed the initial agreement of sale.
CNN-IBN:When was this?
DS Minhas: That was around three years back. Then there was another property near Sidhbari, the present building where the money was recovered that was going to take place. They have bought some property on the border district of Mandi and Kullu district and negotiations were also going on for holdings in Kinnaur district. Then we have reasons to believe that some property has been bought in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and also some property in Uttarakhand. So at least six properties are known. The modus operandi is that they pick up locals and an association is floated or a trust is formed and they do apply to the government, take permission in the name of that cooperative society, that trust or foundation and then that property is bought in that name. The possession is with the people of the Karmapa.
CNN-IBN: Karmapa people are saying that these are offerings from the people.
DS Minhas: In some of the cash found we found that the notes like Chinese Yuan were fresh from the bank pertaining to the year 2005, some were in serial numbers. Such huge money including Indian currency casts a doubt as to why his money has been kept in cash to take care of these deals. On the face it does not appear to be the offerings.
CNN-IBN: You were talking about Tai Situ. Can you tell more about him because as we understand was he really the person who was behind the anointing Karmapa as the 17th Karmapa?
DS Minhas: I am given to believe that even CBI was looking at some cases between 1993 and 98 against Tai Situ. In between he was also barred from entering India. Some of their cronies have been caught in smuggling of wildlife produces.
CNN-IBN: But the is fact that Tai Situ is one of the refugee and has other passports?
DS Minhas: Yes, it was reported that sometime Tai Situ also carried Bhutanese diplomatic passport, sometimes he also carried Nepalese passport and of course he is a resident of Himachal Pradesh as a Tibetan refugee.
CNN-IBN: Why is the Karmapa sect so important. He has a huge following, his sect has the biggest following and some say he has more following than even the Dalai Lama?
DS Minhas: In 1983 when the 16th Karmapa died at that point of time it was estimated that the sect holds properties worth around $1.3 billion around the world. So that way it is a very powerful sect and very wealthy sect. The whole fight between the two anointed people is basically over this property.
So, now we see Minhas, senior-most police official, author of the percipient state investigation, demonstrating his fluency with Tibetan politics, and rather incredibly, issuing a public statement that comes down on one side of a Tibetan political fence.

For his part, Dhumal is no better, using the cheap currency of China-scare to feather his own nest:
"Requesting the Govt of India for fully reimbursing the expenditure being incurred on the Dalai Lama and the 17th Karmapa by the state government, he said that currently only a small percentage of the expenditure was being reimbursed by the ministry of external affairs in case of the Dalai Lama, while the entire expenditure on the security of the Karmapa was being borne by the state government."
We can just see that one taking shape. They've seized a million dollars from the Karmapa, so let them have it, to pay back the cost of providing his security. Hopefully, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will be able to explain to him India's obligations as a nation of first asylum.

We are not speculating. We are not pointing fingers. We are laying the cards face up on the felt. You can make up your own mind. It is tough playing against a stacked deck. Sometimes, the only way to win is to call for new cards.

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5 reader comments:

John Wiley said...

No need to jump to conclusions. This is not 17th century feudal tibet, where a rinpoche or high ranking lama has the power of life and death over their serfs and are generally a law unto themselves.

In the federal democracy of India, there are rules, laws and regulations to be obeyed whether you are a serf or some religious god-king. There are no exceptions.

Let the due process of the law run its course. If he is found not guilty, the judiciary will naturally acquit. However, if he indeed contravened the law, then the book must be thrown at him.

Cliff said...

Thank you for keeping us up to date on this chain of events.

It is very sobering and saddening.

Anonymous said...

This accusation about new currency serially numbered as payment from the China Govt does not hold water. For example, here in Malaysia it is normal for people to go to the banks before the Chinese New Year and exchange for new notes in bundles all serially numbered. These notes are given as gifts in red packets to children, visitors, monks and old folks. This is a Chinese custom.
Secondly, China will not be so stupid to pay their spies in Yuan, when US$ could be so easily obtained and easy for the recipient to make use of.
Thirdly, since the police did not provide any evidence or caught a spy red handed, this is just a blatant and wild accusation. Playing judge and executioner?

Editor said...

Dear Anonymous:
You have made an important point. I myself have followed this custom many, many times. It is in fact very common, to go get new bills in consecutive numbers, arrange them in packets, and so forth, particularly around the New Year, or as gifts to temples.

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