When Dalai Lama stopped a Patna show for Chinese pilgrims

By Jai Prakash Yadav, Indian Express, January 13, 2007

Bihar Tourism shows Chinese team film on Buddhism with the Tibetan leader in it, they walk out in a huff

PATNA, India -- The show was put together with zest for the Chinese guests. They came, all 125 of them, and sat for a viewing of Buddhism: A Spiritual Journey, produced by the Bihar Tourism Department.

The documentary started, but soon there was loud protest and the angry visitors began to leave the theatre, as the stunned and confused hosts tried to figure out why.

They quickly got to know: the show had started with a short footage of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, exiled in India since 1959.

As they herded out of the movie room, one of the delegates said: “We don’t accept Dalai Lama as our spiritual leader.”

The film show was specially organised for the delegation, which had reached Patna on Thursday after completing a pilgrimage of Buddhist sites in Bihar. Their India visit was jointly organised by China’s Buddhist Association and its Shanghai chapter.

The state tourism team was not short on enthusiasm to host the neighbours, but it certainly lacked discretion — and to make matters worse, there was not one senior state government official at the scene. So Junior-level staffs stood dazed and did not know what to do, or probably what all the fuss was about.

Language problem also came in the way. After much persuasion through an interpreter, the Chinese travellers calmed down, but refused to watch the rest of the movie.

When contacted today, state tourism secretary R S Tiwary told The Indian Express that the incident was “unintentional” and “unfortunate”.

“The (Dalai Lama) visuals were part of the film. We could not have deleted it,” Tiwary said. He said that they had shown the film to different dignitaries from Singapore, Thailand and Japan but none had protested, not knowing perhaps that the Tibet is not a disputed part of any of these countries, but China’s.

Recently a number of similar Chinese delegations have come to the state to renew Indo-Chinese friendship through Buddhism and the works and travel of ancient Chinese scholar Xuan Zang (known in India as Heiun Tsang).

The Chinese government is also interested in partnering with other East Asian countries for setting up an international university at Nalanda to revive the lost glory of the ancient Nalanda University. Beijing has already donated extensively to set up a Xuan Zang Memorial Hall at Nalanda.

Ironically, the delegation members who left the show and the city today livid had also planted a peepal tree inside the ruins of Nalanda as a mark of Indo-Chinese friendship.
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