these two links were shared with me by SATISH, so the credit completely goes to him and i felt that such an important happening should not be let swept under the carpets, at least certainly not on DFI. i was not aware of such important happenings where tibetans had played a very crucial part in the 1971 war for the creation of bangladesh, or during the operation blue star in 1984, or during the kargil conflict in 1999. as is so typical of our government which cares less for our own army, i do not expect them to have the spine and acknowledge the role SFF which mainly comprises of tibetans has played in so many wars, conflicts over the years. we on DFI can acknowledge, and feel proud of our tibetan brothers who have shed blood for our motherland. this thread is in recognition of all those brave hearts who have given supreme sacrifice just to make sure you and i have a safe, and brighter future. ----------------------- Not their own wars Not their own wars - Where Tibetans Write Tuesday 8 January 2008, by Tashi Dhundup As the Indian Army’s secretive Tibetan force celebrates its 45th birthday this year, Tibetan warriors in the Special Frontier Force commemorate more than four decades of fighting other people’s wars. While at school at the Central School for Tibetans in Mussoorie, my classmates and I used to sing a song that went, “Chocho mangmi la madro, haapen bholo yoki rae”, which translates to “O brother don’t go to the army, they will make you wear those loose half-pants”. Although we sang this song in every grade, it was only years later that the true meaning of those words finally dawned on me. Each year as the seniors graduated, we would see trucks waiting at the school gate – Indian Army trucks, all set to cart many of the graduating students off to the barracks for training. At the time I was confused, and wondered why these new graduates were not simply going home. It was only much later that I came to understand the involvement of Tibetans in the Indian Army. This is an issue that has still received scant attention, much less acknowledgement of the achievements of the Tibetan soldiers in the name of the Indian state. Indeed, to this day India has never officially recognised this debt, though Tibetans, around 10,000 of them, continue to serve in the Indian Army. India’s Tibetan troops have traditionally made up the vast majority of the Special Frontier Force, widely known as the SFF, which has been guarding Indian borders for 45 years. Following the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the SFF was created in Chakrata, around 100 km from Dehradun, a town with a large Tibetan refugee population. While a second force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), was also created in the same year, its mandate was border patrol, while the SFF focused on guerrilla warfare. Later on, all of the Tibetans with the ITBP were sent to Chakrata, and the ITBP remained Tibetan largely in name only. Over the following decades, despite involvement in the 1971 War of Liberation in Bangladesh, Indira Gandhi’s Operation Bluestar in Punjab, the 1999 conflict in Kargil, as well as a continued presence on the Siachen glacier, the full extent of the SFF’s role has remained shrouded in mystery. Indeed, much of what there is to know about the SFF’s actions over the past four and a half decades has remained with two people: former Indian intelligence chief R N Kao and S S Uban, the SFF’s first inspector-general, both of whom have remained notoriously tight-lipped about the group. China advanced into Tibet in 1950, and nine years later the 14th Dalai Lama, then 24 years of age, fled south into exile. That same period saw the formation of a group called Chu-She-Khang-Druk (Four Rivers and Six Mountains, a name symbolising a unified Tibet), comprised mostly of Khampa, from the southeastern plains of Tibet. This relatively small group suddenly rose in violent revolt against Chinese subjugation and, though outmatched in military strength, the Chu-She-Khang-Druk fighters were able to inflict heavy damage on the People’s Liberation Army. With the Dalai Lama’s escape to India and a mass exodus of Tibetans following, the Khampa fighters felt that the best service they could provide at the time was to protect the escape route. Eventually, they too went into exile, with a base of the group eventually coming up in Mustang, in north-central Nepal. On the global level, this was taking place at the height of the Cold War between the US and international communist forces, which subsequently led the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, DC to decide to aid these Tibetan guerrillas. Though the details have always been somewhat hazy, the US continued to provide weapons and training until the early 1970s. But when Henry Kissinger, then Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, shook hands with Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong in 1971, the CIA abruptly cut off its quiet support for the Tibetans (see accompanying story, “On the altar of foreign relations”). Something similar had earlier taken place in India. Following the 1954 Panchsheel Agreement, Jawaharlal Nehru largely sacrificed Tibet on the altar of Indo-China friendship. At the time, Nehru was evidently assuming, or hoping, that the idea of ‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai’ relations would be firmly cemented. But this was not to be: instead, the dragon roared and breathed fire, and Nehru was jolted from his slumber. The India-China war of 1962 invoked a longstanding sense of paranoia in New Delhi, and in its aftermath Nehru looked towards the old neighbour he had forsaken to protect the Indian border from the new neighbour he had blindly trusted. With a ready stock of CIA-trained Tibetan guerrillas now available in India, Nehru decided to form an army unit consisting almost exclusively of Tibetans to guard its rugged northern frontier. The Chu-She-Gang-Druk fighters welcomed the idea: through the new formation, they hoped that a Tibetan army could be formally maintained, and could be of ready use in the future. A tripartite agreement between India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), the US’s CIA and the Chu-She-Gang-Druk subsequently brought into existence the Special Frontier Force. Initial recruiting gathered together around 12,000 men, commanded by two Chu-She-Gang-Druk leaders, who were oddly referred to as the “political leaders”. Initial training was provided by the CIA and India’s Intelligence Bureau. Within two years, a period of covert expeditions along India’s northern borders had begun. Yet opportunities never did materialise for the unit to be used against its intended ‘enemy’, and indeed, in 1973 the SFF’s orders were altered following alleged incursions into Tibet: the group was now longer allowed to deploy within 10 km of the Tibetan border. However, it was successfully deployed during the course of several other operations. It would be appreciated… 16 December 1971 was the day the Bangladesh War of Liberation ended, and the date has come to connote freedom for the people of Bangladesh. Few in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, however, remember – or have ever known of – the role played by the SFF in ensuring the Indian Army’s victory on that day. In the lead-up to the SFF’s deployment, Indira Gandhi wired a message to the Tibetan fighters, conveyed through their Indian commander: “We cannot compel you to fight a war for us,” Gandhi wrote, “but the fact is that General A A K Niazi [the Pakistan Army commander in East Pakistan] is treating the people of East Pakistan very badly. India has to do something about it. In a way, it is similar to the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans in Tibet, we are facing a similar situation. It would be appreciated if you could help us fight the war for liberating the people of Bangladesh.” In a dynamic that would be repeated several additional times, Tibetans subsequently began to fight a war that was not their own, and on the request of a woman whose father had played a significant part in betraying the Tibetan cause. Three thousand SFF Tibetan commandos were deployed, fighting under the cover of the Mukti Bahini (Bangladesh Liberation Army) along the Chittagong Hill Tracts. They infiltrated with orders to destroy bridges, dams and communication lines, thereby smoothening the way for the advance of the Indian Army. During the conflict, the SFF lost 56 men, while another 190 were wounded. After a little less than nine months, East Pakistan became Bangladesh. The new country’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, personally called the SFF leaders to thank them for their part in that creation. But this had been a classified mission – one that, officially, still does not exist. As such, none of the SFF fighters have ever been decorated, nor have their contributions ever been officially recognised. So began decades of fighting other people’s wars, much as the Nepali Gorkhas serve in the Indian armed forces. As alluded to by Indira Gandhi’s 1971 letter, the SFF was seen as a particularly effective force, and their service was used in 1984 Operation Bluestar to storm the Golden Temple to flush out Sikh militants. Years later, keeping in mind his mother’s attachment to the SFF, Rajiv Gandhi called upon the Tibetan fighters to manage his security during part of his tenure as prime minister. Following the 1999 conflict in Kargil, a Tibetan jawan wrote a song that began, “Kargil la dhangpo yongdue, bomb ki phebso shoesong” (When I first came to Kargil, the bombs welcomed us). Inherent in those words are not just fearful sentiments as expressed by any young soldier, but also the fact that Kargil was India’s conflict, not Tibet’s. Likewise, one SFF battalion today continues to serve on the Siachen glacier – oddly close to their homeland, but facing the opposite direction. Indeed, unofficial thanks notwithstanding, throughout these past decades it has fallen to the Tibetans themselves to sing the songs of the unsung heroes. One such song in Hindi, composed by a Tibetan trooper, is titled “We are Vikasi”, referring to the term used for a regiment within the SFF. Its words allude not only to a push to keep the cause of Tibetan independence alive, but also to the formation of a new identity within the past half-century: the Tibetan-Indian, temporarily or otherwise. Hum hai Vikasi, tibbat wasi Desh ki shyan bharayenghye Jab jab humko milega moka Jaan pe khel dekhayenghye Hum hai vikasi Chin ne humse chean ke tibbat Ghar se hame nikala hae Phirbi bharat ne humko, Apno ki tara sambhala hae Ekna Ek din chin ko bhi hum Nako channe chabayenghye Jab jab hum ko milega moka Jaan pe khel dekhayenghye Sichan glaciar main humko Moka mila dubara hai Hamare vir jawano ko Nahin koyi bhi gum Kargil hoya Bangladesh Himmat kabhi na hare hum Jab jab hum ko milega moka Jaan pe khel dekhayenghye Jahan hamara mahel potala Norbu lingka pyara hai Pujya dalai lama singhasan Tabse hi nyara hai Yad karo aun viron ko Jisne diya balidan hai Au milkar gayen hum Jai hamara Tibbat Jai Jai hamara Tibbat Jai Jai Hamara Tibbat Jai We are the Vikasi, dwellers of Tibet We will strengthen the pride of the country Whenever opportunities arise we will play with our lives. We are the Vikasi The Chinese snatched Tibet from us and kicked us out from our home Even then, India kept us like their own One day, surely one day we will teach the Chinese a lesson Whenever opportunities arise we will play with our lives In the Siachen glacier we got our second chance Our young martyrs have no sadness whatsoever Whether it is Kargil or Bangladesh we will not lose our strength Whenever opportunities arise we will play with our lives Where there is our Potala Palace and lovely Norbu Lingka The throne of the Dalai Lama was dear even then Remember those martyrs of ours who sacrificed with their lives Let’s sing together Hail to our Tibet! Hail to our Tibet! Hail to our Tibet!