The Tibetan Independence Movement: Political, Religious and Gandhian Perspective

The Tibetan Independence Movement: Political, Religious and Gandhian Perspective

The Tibetan Independence Movement: Political, Religious and Gandhian Perspective

The Tibetan Independence Movement: Political, Religious and Gandhian Perspective


Tibet has been occupied for over fifty years, yet no progress has been made in solving the Tibetan problem. The first serious analysis of the Tibetan independence movement, this book is also the first to view the struggle from a comparative perspective, making an overt comparison with the Indian independence movement. It rectifies the problem that the Tibetan independence movement is not taken seriously from a political perspective. The book is particularly concerned with the relationship between Buddhism and Tibetan politics and resistance, comparing this with the relationship between Hinduism and Gandhian political thought. It also expands on the limited literature concerning violent resistance in Tibet, examining guerilla warfare and the hunger strike undertaken by the Tibetan Youth Congress in 1998, rejecting the 'Shangri-la-ist' approach to Tibetan resistance.


I first became interested in Indian politics when I visited India with my family in 1988. One of the many places we visited was Birla House in New Delhi, the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. In the garden Gandhi’s last footsteps have been marked in stone and a simple monument stands at the exact site where he died. I was struck by the emotion that was evident in the Indian visitors. The house, which is now a museum, contained Gandhi’s only possessions at the time of his death; little more than his glasses and a couple of books. These images have stayed with me and continue to impress with their humility and profundity.

In 1990 I returned to India to teach music in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, for six months. Due to political unrest over the then government’s policy of reserving a quota of university places and government jobs for scheduled castes, the school was actually closed for most of my time there. This allowed me to visit the nearby Dharamsala, the Indian home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many Tibetan refugees. Further unrest - a strike by transport workers - meant that I became stranded in Dharamsala, much to the amusement of the Tibetans with whom I had become friendly. Having intended to stay in Dharamsala only for a couple of days, I had nothing to read, and so turned to the many books on sale on all aspects of Tibet.

The impact of Indian political life upon this mainly Tibetan town has shaped my interest in both Indian and exile Tibetan politics since then. It has always seemed logical to me to think of the two systems as working together, or at least to observe the Tibetan exile polity as working within that of India. This book addresses some of the ways in which the experiences of Indians during their struggle for independence can help those Tibetan refugees who live in India - and around the world - today.

Like so many first books, this one started life as my PhD thesis (Ardley 1999a). I must therefore thank colleagues in the Department of Politics at Keele University, for my PhD would not have been possible without the help and support of several people. First and foremost must be my supervisor, Rosemary O’Kane, for all her valuable suggestions and guidance. I must also thank Brian Doherty, my second supervisor; John Barry, my internal

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