GUWAHATI: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday had an emotional reunion with one of the seven Assam Rifles guards who escorted him to India during his escape from Tibet 58 years ago. Call it a holy reunion which was also an emotional one.
The Dalai Lama embraced and thanked Das, an Assamese, at the interactive session organised at the 'Namami Brahmaputra' River festival by the Assam government here.
Seventy-nine-year-old Das was among a group of seven Assam Rifles personnel who escorted the fleeing spiritual leader near Tibet in 1959 during his daring escape. The highpoint of the reunion was when the spiritual leader saluted Das.
The scenario ensued as Assam Rifles director general Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan, who was on the podium pointed out to the Dalai Lama that at least one soldier, who had received him on the border that day, was in the crowd.
Das became nostalgic on seeing the Dalai Lama. Recalling the incident, he said they were ordered to move to the border to receive a “special guest” and bring him to Tawang in Arunachal safely.
“It was just three years that I had joined the Assam Rifles. I was then a rifleman posted at Tawang. On March 29, 1959, seven of us were tasked to escort the Dalai Lama safely to Indian territory. The journey began the next day. There was no road there then and it took us a day to cover the distance on foot. We were armed with 303 rifles and I was his bodyguard. He (Dalai Lama) was on a horseback while we walked. All seven of us were relieved of duty when we had reached Tawang,” Das recalled.
“I cannot tell you how excited I am today. Those two minutes (when Dalai Lama hugged him on stage for the first time) are the best moment of my life,” Das said as his eyes turned moist.
Das retired in 1982 as havildar and has four daughters and three sons. He is settled in northern Assam’s Sonitpur district.
Addressing students at the Gauhati University earlier in the day, the Dalai Lama called himself an Indian. "For the past over 50 years, my body has been surviving on Indian dal and chapati. So, physically and mentally I am an Indian,” he said, adding, “I am the longest guest of India”.
“I call myself as the son of India. Some Chinese media came to me a few years ago and asked me why I say so. I told them that each part of my brain is filled with Nalanda thoughts,” he said.