Two Tibetan bikers have embarked on an ambitious motorcycle expedition across India in support of a petition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be nominated for India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna award. Tsering Yeshi and Chime Tamdin set off on their mission from McLeod Ganj in Dharamsala, on Tuesday, aiming to ride to all Indian states, taking in 40 locations across the subcontinent in two months, along the way gathering signatures and stamps in support of the award.
“This individual campaign aims to highlight the need to confer the highest civilian award to His Holiness for his lifelong work toward peace, compassion, non-violence, and to recognize the Dalai Lama’s outstanding contribution to the cause of Tibet and the world,” 47-year-old Tsering Yeshi was quoted as saying. “We’ll be riding all over India from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh to Kanyakumari.” (Phayul)
Yeshi is a former member of India’s Special Frontier Force (SFF), a military special forces unit, and is vice-chairman of TNMF Dhondupling Local Tibetan Assembly in Dehradun. His companion Tamdin has also taken part in other campaigns in support of the Tibetan community. The first destinations for the pair include Tibetan settlements in Tashi Jong, Bir, and Chauntra.
In spearheading the initiative, Yeshi pledged to commemorate the “Year of Gratitude” to the Dalai Lama as a common man, urging Tibetan and Indian communities to support the campaign.
“My campaign is: I am writing an application to the Prime Minister of India, regarding the conferment of the Bharat Ratna award to the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet,” said Yeshi. “For that, I am riding all over India, visiting all the Tibetan settlements—right from Ladakh to Kanyakumari, from Arunachal to Gujarat,” (Big News Network)
Coinciding with the 85th birthday of the Tibetan spiritual leader in July last year, a full year of worldwide commemorative events has been planned as part of a “Year of Gratitude.” From 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, according to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government-in-exile, a series of virtual events has been organized in appreciation of the Dalai Lama’s outstanding contributions that will “endeavor to share, promote, and celebrate the teachings and the lifework of His Holiness.” (Central Tibetan Administration)*
The Bharat Ratna, which translates as Jewel of India, is India’s highest civilian award and is conferred in recognition of exceptional service, without distinction to ethnicity, occupation, rank, or gender. Instituted in 1954, the award was originally presented for achievements in art, literature, science, and public service, but the Indian government expanded the criteria to encompass all fields of human endeavor in 2011. Recommendations for the honor are made by the prime minister to the president of India, with a maximum of three nominees per year. Recipients receive a certificate and a medallion shaped to resemble a Bodhi tree leaf. There is no monetary grant associated with the award.
The campaign to honor the Dalai Lama has already received support from the Indo-Tibet Friendship Association, the Tibetan United Society, and five Dharamsala-based Tibetan NGOs: the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Gu-Chu-Sum Movement Association of Tibet, the Tibetan Women’s Association, the National Democratic Party of Tibet (NDPT), and Students for a Free Tibet.
“The motivation comes from His Holiness himself—His Holiness’ contribution to not only the Tibetan community, but to the whole world. For that I don’t have to explain anything,” Yeshi observed. “The Central Tibetan Administration has declared gratitude to His Holiness Dalai Lama for his contribution in all the fields. So being my Guru, I thought it’s my personal duty to say thank you to His Holiness and I think this is the most appropriate way to say thank you to my Guru.” (Youtube)
“The Dalai Lama has always introduced himself as the son of India and worked hard all his life toward reviving ancient Indian knowledge through the advent of Tibetan Buddhism,” Yeshi continued. “His non-violent approach and the message of compassion to the whole world are well known.” (The Tribune)
* Year-long Celebrations Planned to Mark the Birthday of the Dalai Lama (Buddhistdoor Global)
Two Tibetans start all-India bike rally, urges PM Modi to confer Bharat Ratna upon Dalai Lama (Phayul)
Tibetan seeks Bharat Ratna for Dalai Lama (The Tribune)
Activists on mission to get Bharat Ratna for Dalai Lama (Big News Network)