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Ill-Health or Politics? – Dalai Lama headlines in India after ditching Botswana

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SONNY SERITE

Following immense political pressure on Botswana, the spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama chose to attend an event in Mumbai, India on the day he was supposed to have flown to Gaborone.
Government has been under political pressure in recent weeks from China, following the announcement that the Dalai Lama was going to visit Gaborone. However news that the spokesman for the Basarwa, Jumanda Gakelebone wrote to Dalai Lama would certainly have ruffled governments feathers and placed the Dalai Lama in an undesirable quandary of having to comment on issues that he intimately associates with given the circumstance in Tibet.
According to Survival International, Gakelebone sought the assistance of the Dalai Lama to intervene on their behalf with Government writing that “We still cannot live on our lands freely. The government makes it so that children must apply for permits to visit their parents when they become adults. We worry what the government will do when those parents pass away. The government still forbids us from hunting and has introduced a shoot-on-sight policy against poachers. Last year a group of Bushmen out hunting were shot at from a police helicopter. Some of them were stripped naked and beaten”. In addition the letter stated that “People praise President Khama [Botswana’s President] as a conservation hero when he ignores our struggle and our country’s own courts. Yet his government is happy for mining to take place on our ancestral land”. Gakelebone added that “We are the first people of the Kalahari. We are the ones who have protected this land and the animals that live there. Why has “conservation” brought us so much suffering?”
It is has not been ascertained whether the Dalai Lama has responded to the latter.
The Dalai Lama was scheduled to fly from India on Sunday and arrive in Gaborone today (Tuesday). Even though he has written to both President Ian Khama and Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu, President of Mind & Life Institute expressing regret at having to cancel his impending and much talked about visit to Botswana citing health problems, the Botswana Gazette can confirm that an upbeat and healthy Dalai Dama was on Sunday engaged at the interfaith program at NSCI Dome, Mumbai, India.
The spiritual leader was in his element when addressing participants on Sunday, extolling secularism practised in India and emphasising that India’s example of peaceful existence of different religions should be practiced all over the world. So healthy was Dalai Lama that he took some time during the program to play around as he was seen holding Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev’s beard in a playful manner and poked his midriff as the latter touched Dalai Lama’s feet to seek blessings. He was in a jovial mood and showed no signs of exhaustion as purported in the statement that sought to explain reasons for cancelling his trip to Gaborone. ‘‘During the past few weeks, His Holiness has found that carrying out his activities has left him unusually tired’’, reads part of the statement issued by the office of the Dalai Lama. The statement further says Dalai Lama has been advised by his physicians to avoid undertaking long journeys for the next few weeks and that he must stay home and recuperate.
This publication was able to get hold of Dalai Lama’s itinerary for the next coming weeks and can confirm he is scheduled to give four morning teachings on Buddhapalita from August 29- September 1 in India.  On the 10th of September Dalai Lama will travel to Northern Ireland to give a public talk on Compassion in Action. He will proceed to Frankfurt, Germany on September 13 before flying out to Sicily, Italy on September 16 where he will spend the rest of the month criss-crossing the country and giving talks on various topics.
The Sunday event that prevented Dalai Lama from coming to Botswana was attended by other religious leaders such as  Dr. Kalbe Sadiq, Archbishop Felix Anthony Machado , Giani Gurbachan Singh, Swami Baba Ramdev, Jainacharya Namra Muni and many others. Key figures who attended the event were Union Minister for Agriculture and Panchayat Raj, Union Minister for Science & Technology; Environment, Forest and Climate Change; as well as Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan and Indian actor, Vivek Oberoi. Dalai Lama spent the whole day at the event and had lunch with Indian leaders in what was described as a cordial display of friendship. It does not however come as a surprise that on finding out that his departure to Botswana coincided with the interfaith program in Mumbai, Dalai Lama chose to honour the latter.
India has offered Dalai Lama refuge at Dharamshala, a city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. This hillside city is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. Meanwhile organisers of the Mind & Life Conference have said the event that is scheduled for Thursday at Botho University in Gaborone will go ahead without the presence of Dalai Lama despite the fact that the main attraction of the event and whose  basis the tickets were sold out, will no longer be in attendance.

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