Who I am
“My name is Bagdro. I am a Tibetan monk and a political activist. For three years I was a Tibetan prisoner in a Chinese prison”. This is how Ven. Bagdro introduced himself when we first met him at a local cafe in Dharamsala, where he now lives in exile from the Chinese government.
Bagdro was born in 1970 and grew up in Tibet in a poor family. Because of his upbringing, where his sister died of starvation, his only option for survival was to become a monk in 1985. This was when his story began.
We asked Bagdro: “When were you first aware of the Tibet issue?” “When I was young I didn’t know anything about Tibet, the Tibetan history or His Holiness Dalai Lama. But in 1987 I met an American tourist in the mountains close to my monastery. She said to me in Tibetan: ‘Do you know His Holiness Dalai Lama, your leader’ and I answered: ‘No, who is His Holiness Dalai Lama? My leader is Mao and Stalin’. She responded: ‘No, they are dangerous people who are destroying your country and killing your people. His Holiness Dalai Lama is your real leader who lives in Northern India, Dharamsala’, after which she gave me the book ‘My land and My people’ written by His Holiness Dalai Lama. That evening I read his book with tears in my eyes and anger in my body as I realised how my country and history was destroyed and censored by the chinese government.” According to Bagdro this was what ultimately changed his life considering the consequences of his action. Bagdro decided to spread His Holiness’ words to his fellow monks at the monastery by sharing the book with the message: “You should read this. It’s about our country, our land, which China is about to occupie. We must do something.”
We asked Bagdro: “Why did you go to prison?” He explained that he started protesting after having read the book. “I made posters pictured Dalai Lama saying: ‘Long live Dalai Lama. Free Tibet. The Chinese get out of Tibet’ and hang it up all over Tibet – even at the Chinese police offices. Together with other monks I started planing a peaceful protest, which took place on March 5th 1988 at the Monlam Prayer Festival in Lhasa. It is a really famous festival, where journalists from all over the world come to cover the event. I told the other participating monks that: ‘All Tibetans are looking at us right now. If we refuse to do the protest we will feel ashamed because we will be guilty of the outcome of our history by accepting the chinese repression.’ As time ran by and the protest began the chinese military came up with tanks and helicopters and started to do violent attacks as butchers. They kept on going the next day where they entered the monestary and started to shoot and arrest monks from the age of 10 and up. I was shot in my leg, however I managed to escape. Afterwards the police hang up posters of me saying ‘Wanted. The most dangerous monk.’ They even went to my parents house and harmed them while asking for me. For one month I wore woman clothes, putted on wig, lipstick and earrings trying to hide and escape from the chinese police. However, they ended up finding me at my parents house and put me to prison and since then I have devoted my life to protest and speak on behalf of free Tibet.”
We asked Bagdro: “How did you experience the time in prison?” “During my time in prison I almost died.” Bagdro started telling us. “The authorities of the prison put me into a room with four policemen who were all carring electric shock weapons. They kept asking me: ‘How much money does Dalai Lama give you? How much money does The Tibetan government give you?’ I refused to answer on their question which had the outcome that they gave me electric shock all over my body, even in my mouth.” Bagdro continued to explain how the prisonguards tortured him by demanding him to stand barefeet on ice for four hours. How they hang the prisoners in the trees and in the ceiling with braided barbed wire on their hands. How they put their cigarettes into the prisoners faces. How the prisoners was used for medical testing as they were tapped for blood and got their healthy kidneys operated out.
We asked Bagdro: “How did you escape to India?” In 1991 my physical conditions were so bad that the prison didn’t had any other choice than to release me as Amnesty kept putting a pressure at them. I was taking to a hospital in which I stayed for two month to recover from my injuries.” Bagdro explained: “Troughout my time in prison I received small donations and were told to go to India: ‘They have his holiness Dalai Lama. They have the Tibetan government. You must tell them the truth of what is going on in Tibet. You must spread the word and search for help’.” With help from a kind policewoman and the small donations, Bagdro managed to escape with 19 other people in the summer of 1991. “We walked for almost three months” he said and explained how he quickly became aware that he had to dedicate his life to help with the Tibet issue.
We asked Bagdro: “What do you think the rest of the world think of the Tibet issue?” Bagdro answered: “The world, the governments, the politicians and the business people, all they think of is their own needs – money, natural ressources, protection of parlament ect. Furthermore, the increasing amount of destruction around the world sets up demands to the politicians and business men to work together to protect their own environment, their own natural ressources, their own justice and thereby indirectly supporting the suffering of those getting killed by the Chinese government.”
We finished our conversation by asking Bagdro: “What do you hope the outcome of this interview will be?” “I believe your work is very helpful”, said Bagdro. “As well as the work of Tibet Hope Center is. The most important thing for us Tibetan people is to inform the rest of the world about The Tibetan issue. Throughout your work here you will collect new knowlegde about the situation of Tibet and my hope is that you will share that knowlegde with the people of your homecountry.” As a part of the buddhism philosphy Bagdro believes that violence is not the way to save Tibet from the chinese occupation, however, he believes in wisdom and peaceful protests. On request of His Holiness Dalai Lama Bagdro has become a writer to perpetuate his message and action for free Tibet. “I have written 15 books which are all about different stories and subjects of the situation in Tibet. Among others I wrote ‘A Hell On Earth’ in 1998 in which I narrate about my experiences of my time in prison.” The last thing Bagdro said was “Tibet will be free one day. We tibetans will never give up.”
By Kristine, Vega and Mie (Denmark)