people & power
People & Power

The Dalai Lama: The devil within

How the followers of a 500-year-old deity are taking the Tibetan leader to court.

Editor’s note: This film is no longer available online.

The Dalai Lama has imposed a ban on the worship of a 500-year-old deity called Dorje Shugden.

Across the world 4 million Buddhist Tibetans worship this particular deity. The ban has created tension and dissent amongst the one million Tibetans living in India and in May 400 monks were thrown out of monasteries because of their religious beliefs.

In the Tibetan refugee camps, Shugden worshippers have been turned away from jobs, shops and schools. Posters with the message “no Shugden followers allowed” cover hospital and shop fronts.

The tension has been fueled by the Tibetan exile government who brandish Shugden worshippers as terrorists closely linked to China.

Shugden followers in India have decided to take matters into their own hands, taking the Dalai Lama to court for religious discrimination.

Tibetans in Nepal

Nepal has used a heavy hand to crack down on Tibetan protestors

When China cracked down on protests in Tibet earlier this year thousands of Tibetans in Nepal gathered outside the Chinese embassy and UN offices in Kathmandu to show their anger. These demonstrations were the first of many.

Nepal, which borders China’s Tibetan region, is home to some 20,000 Tibetan exiles, refugees and asylum seekers.

It has seen numerous protests against China by the Tibetans before but this year, with Beijing’s growing influence and pressure, the Nepalese government has curtailed their right to demonstrate, and with a heavy hand. From batons to teargas, surveillance to illegal detentions, Beijing’s active interference can be felt at every level of the Tibetan communities in Kathmandu.

Protestors have been beaten, rounded up and held without charge, stopped from reaching their protest destination, spied on and threatened with deportation. 

Nepal justifies its actions by saying it will not tolerate demonstrations against ‘friendly countries’. China says the demonstrators are exploiting the media to gain sympathy, but Tibetans, old and young, are as determined as ever to get their voices heard.

In this film we see the Tibetan movement, the security response, and China’s impact through two characters: Kelsung, a 24-year-old tourist guide who has been to every single protest, and Ngawang Sangmo, the president of the Tibetan Woman’s Association, who was held by police for a month, accused of undermining the relationship between China and Nepal.