Uproar Over Tibetan Self-immolator's Secret Cremation in Nepal

Nepal police step up security around the self-immolation site near the famous Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Feb. 13, 2013.

Authorities in Nepal have secretly cremated a Tibetan Buddhist monk who self-immolated in the country’s capital Kathmandu in a protest calling for freedom from Chinese rule for Tibet, Tibetan advocacy and rights groups said, suggesting Beijing had pressured the Nepal government.

Members of the large Tibetan community in Nepal had asked the government to hand over the body to them so that a proper funeral could be conducted for him but authoritiese insisted that the body could only be claimed by the monk's family as required by law.

The government, according to reports, said none of his family members had come forward to claim his body and had rejected all requests by the Tibetan community to collect the body.

It is not known whether the monk, who came to Nepal a few weeks before his self-immolation death on Feb. 13, had left any relatives behind in Tibet.

The monk, whose identity has not been confirmed, was cremated “in secrecy in the middle of the night” on March 25 without the observance of religious or cultural rituals, according to sources in Nepal speaking on condition of anonymity.

Five policemen brought the charred body from the Teaching Hospital to Pashupati Argyaghat, the cremation grounds of the Hindu Pashupatinath temple, for cremation around 10:30 to 11:00 p.m. that night, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The police team instructed four cremation workers who normally deal with unclaimed or unidentified bodies to cremate the remains.

One of the policemen stayed to watch until the burning was complete and the ashes disposed of hours later, the sources said.

‘A betrayal’

The International Campaign for Tibet, a Washington-based advocacy group, said the monk’s secret cremation followed weeks of “intense negotiations” by Tibetan and Nepalese community leaders.

According to one Tibetan source, the decision by the Nepalese authorities was made “at the highest levels” and is likely to reflect ongoing Chinese pressure on the Nepalese authorities targeted at the Tibetan community, the ICT said in a statement on Thursday.

In Tibet, the Chinese authorities have adopted increasingly aggressive measures to prevent Tibetans from carrying out prayer ceremonies after Tibetans who have self-immolated. A total of 114 Tibetans have burned themselves in protest against Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas in China.

Tsering Jampa, Executive-Director of ICT Europe, said the secret cremation of the Tibetan monk in Nepal  was a “betrayal” of the Tibetan community who had been involved in dialogue over the issue.

“It reflects badly on the Nepalese authorities that they chose to dispose of [his] body in this undignified manner, in conditions of such secrecy, he said.

‘Litmus test’

Tenzin Dorjee, the executive director of the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet, had called the monk’s case a “litmus test for Nepal's democracy, its humanity, and its sovereignty.”

“Beijing's long arm of oppression not only deprived [him] of political freedom in his life, but it also stole his final opportunity for spiritual liberation in his death. In facilitating this injustice, Nepal has allowed itself to be used as an instrument of tyranny.”

Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.


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