NEW DELHI: Ugyen Trinley Dorje was barely 15 when he arrived in India via Nepal after escaping from Tibet in late December 1999. When he finally reached Dharamshala, the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on January 5, 2000, “His Holiness received me with his great love and affection. My joy knew no bounds,” he recounts in a personal blog.
Though many in the Indian government suspected him of being a Chinese plant, he was granted temporary shelter at Gyuto Monastery in the suburbs of Dharamshala. His predecessor, the 16th Karmapa had set up his exile seat in Rumtek in Sikkim, one of the richest monasteries outside Tibet. But a court case by another claimant to the title has barred both from visiting Rumtek.
Now, after more than a year abroad, mostly in the US for medical treatment, the Lama, now 33, claims that the Indian government is blocking his return. “Let’s be clear. The government of India does not recognise Ugyen Trinley Dorje as the 17th Karmapa Lama. There are other contenders,” said a senior source, privy to the government’s position on the issue. “He came to India on his own volition, and has been living in India as a Tibetan refugee, as have some 140,000 or more such refugees who have come since 1959 including his holiness the Dalai Lama.”
According to the source, “We are aware he has secured a foreign passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica, a tiny Caribbean island not to be confused with the Dominican Republic. He did not share this information with the Government of India. We have conveyed to him repeatedly that we are prepared to give him a visa on his Dominica passport, but while claiming that we are denying him a visa, he has not approached any of our missions abroad for one.
There are specific motivations by certain quarters to put a certain spin on this. He is free to come to India, but he must formally apply for a visa first.”Author and columnist Claude Arpi, who has written several books on Tibet, said, “It is not healthy for secular state to enter into the issue of reincarnation. Also, Ugyen appears to have been poorly advised.”
Who’s the Karmapa?
Ugyen Trinley Dorje, who escaped from Tibet to India in early 2000, is recognised by both the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama as the 17th Karmapa Lama, or the head of the Karma Kagyu school. He is also the head of the extremely influential and wealthy Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim In 1998, Thinley Thaye Dorje also staked claim to the title, and filed a case in the SC seeking a bar on Ugyen’s claim to Rumtek. That case is still pending. While both claimants are barred from visiting Rumtek, Ugyen was given the Identity Certificate (IC) issued to mostly to Tibetans in India, which allows him to travel abroad