By Tsering Woeser, Tibetan Blogger
A week ago, an unknown person with an Amdo Tibetan dialect phoned me to hurriedly tell me that Golog Jigme had maybe been arrested. At the time, I was just passing Ramoche Temple and saw a few Special Police surrounding two young Tibetans, checking their ID cards. “When?” I asked in a loud voice, but the Chinese pop music coming out of the shop next to me was even louder, I could not hear what the person said and then the connection broke.
I immediately dialled Golog Jigme’s number but just heard the “this phone is switched off” message.
Golog Jigme is a monk from Labrang Monastery and belongs to the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. His whole name is Jigme Gyatso, he is 43 years old. He was born in Sertar County, in Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province and traditionally, this region was called Golog Sertar, which is close to and belongs to the Golog region, mainly a nomadic area. In the monasteries there are many monks with the same names; for example, Lama Jigme, the deputy director of the Monastery management committee who has been arrested many times and who is now facing his prison sentence, his religious name is also Jigme Gyatso. In order to indicate the differences, each one gets an alternative name. Golog Jigme is Jigme from Golog Sertar.
Golog Jigme was arrested between 2008 and 2009. The main reason was because he helped farmers to appear in the documentary shot by Dhondup Wangchen, “Leaving Fear behind”. It was the first documentary that was filmed by someone from inside Tibet that actually reveals the truth and provides verbal evidence; one of the people interviewed was Golog Jigme’s father who expressed his longing for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, choking with tears. Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to 6 years in prison for this, accused of “subversion of state power”. Golog Jigme suffered from cruel torture, leaving him with a broken body. Last year when I met him, I witnessed myself how he could not could even walk for his whole body was in pain because of the cold weather.
I do not dare to believe that Golog Jigme has once more been thrown into prison. Last month on the phone, he still asked me if I was safe and sound. In fact, he would always worry about his friends’ safety and well-being, he would never talk much about his own sufferings. He has an optimistic personality, his voice is bright and clear, his round face is always smiling. Meeting him doesn’t actually reveal who he really is, it is impossible to imagine that this courageous person was tortured and nearly died. At the time of the torture his father was so worried that he fell ill and shortly after he was released his father passed away.
Two days ago, I heard different news about Golog Jigme from his friends that suggested inscrutable danger, making people extremely worried.
According to this news, one night in early September, a work unit in Sangchu County, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province where Labrang Monastery is situated, sent some men with a bulldozer to raze the ground around Golog Jigme’s residence. They did not say which work unit they belonged to, they only said that the demolition was related to the government’s city construction project. Golog Jigme’s residence was very small, and in the whole of Labrang Monastery, only his place was being demolished. He could only try and save his personal important belongings and, before the arrival of the bulldozer, squeezed into another monk’s residence.
When Golog Jigme was young he left home for this famous Buddhist Monastery, Labrang Monastery and is now considered a senior monk. When his residence was demolished, he went to the monastery management to ask for temporary accommodation but was refused. On September 20, Golog Jigme was invited to a Tibetan family home in Lanzhou to recite and chant Buddhist texts. On 21st, he went to the prefecture level authorities in Tsoe County to take care of the paperwork, he stayed there for one night. The next day, on his way back to Labrang Monastery, he went missing has remained so without news since.
Golog Jigme’s friend said: “They all say that Golog Jigme was probably caught by the police. But this time the reason for it is not clear, maybe it was related to the beginning of the 18th People’s Congress; the demolition of his residence seems to be related to this and makes people extremely worried about his safety.”
In a blogpost titled “The case of Tibetan Senior Monks who were either Tortured or went Missing” I once wrote: Many people, yes, they are all from our culture, they are all respected as the “Sangha”, one of the three precious treasures of Buddhism, they are all our treasured deep maroon; but today, they have, one by one, not only been degraded and hated, but even exterminated by physical bodies. Of course, the one that treats our Rinpoches, our Geshes, our Khenpos, our Lamas and all our monks like this is not an individual person, is not a group of people, it is a government…I beg you to pay attention to their lives that have been persecuted. Their and many other monks’ sufferings are not random cases, they are absolutely not individual cases.”