Nepal Authorities Cremate Tibetan Protester's Remains 'in Secret'

People gather outside the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu after the self-immolation, Aug 6, 2013.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Nepalese authorities have secretly cremated the remains of a Tibetan self-immolator in defiance of pleas by the Tibetan community that traditional Buddhist funeral rites be conducted for him, according to a local source.

The cremation took place on Sept. 2, nearly a month after he self-immolated in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu in protest against Beijing’s rule in Tibetan-populated areas in China.

“The authorities secretly burned the body of Karma Ngedon Gyatso at Cremation Pyre No. 5” at Pashupatinath Aryaghat in Kathmandu, the source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“One of the workers at the cremation ground said that a badly burned body had been brought to the cremation ground and then incinerated,” the source said, adding that “unclaimed” bodies are sometimes brought in by police for cremation.

Karma Ngedon Gyatso, a Tibetan monk, self-immolated on Aug. 6—the third Tibetan self-immolation to take place in the small Himalayan nation which is home to about 20,000 Tibetan refugees who have fled Chinese rule .

Gyatso, 39, lit butter lamps and recited prayers before setting himself ablaze at the Boudhanath Stupa, a famous gathering place for Buddhist pilgrims in Kathmandu, where many Tibetan exiles live, according to sources.

He was then taken to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, where he was pronounced dead, sources said.

Requests denied

Authorities later turned down repeated requests by rights groups and Tibetan community members that they be given possession of Gyatso’s remains so that traditional death ceremonies could be performed.

In an Aug. 20 statement, Tibetan Youth Congress president Tenzin Jigme urged Nepalese authorities “to either hand over the body to the Tibetan community in Kathmandu or arrange for the correct funeral rituals according to Buddhist traditions.”

“The Nepalese people have always allowed for space so that each and every individual living in this nation enjoy[s] the freedom to practice their religion,” Jigme said.

Sudip Pathak, head of the Nepal Human Rights Committee, also wrote to authorities, asking them to hand over Gyatso’s remains to “those who follow the same faith,” RFA’s source said.

“However, the Nepal government did not respond to the request … even though there had been similar requests from the public.”

An official notice published on Aug. 31 in the Gorkhapatra National Daily newspaper declared that Gyatso’s body would be handed over “only to his relatives,” and that his remains would have to be claimed within the following week, the source said.

Other burnings

A total of 121 Tibetans in China have set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom and for the return to Tibet of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

All three self-immolations that occurred in Nepal were carried out at the Boudhanath Stupa.

In February, 25-year-old Tibetan monk Drupchen Tsering set fire to himself and died.

His body was later also secretly cremated late at night on the instruction of Nepalese authorities despite appeals from the Tibetan community that Buddhist monks be in attendance to offer prayers.

The first Tibetan self-immolation in Nepal was reported in November 2011 when a monk identified as Bhutok wrapped a Tibetan flag around himself, doused himself in kerosene while shouting slogans calling for a free Tibet, and set himself alight.

Buddhist pilgrims at the stupa managed to quickly put out the flames, and he survived.

China has become more aggressive in recent years in urging Nepal to restrict the activities of the Tibetan refugees and to help control the movement of Tibetans in both directions across the countries’ shared border.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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