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Tibetan Refugee

Historically, from the ancient times, Nepal and Tibet enjoyed close relation in the field of economic, diplomatic and cultural exchanges. Tibet and Nepal signed treaties in the years 1645, 1789, 1792,and 1856 as independent sovereign nations and it is well known that Nepal produced these treaties as an evidence of independent nation when applying for the membership of UNO.

Nepal’s first recorded official relations with Tibet occurred near the middle of the seventh century. In the Seventh Century, King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet married the Nepalese princess Bhrikuti who, together with the imperial Chinese princess Wen Cheng, shares the credit for introducing Buddhism to Tibet. Bhrikuti brought with her an image of Aksobhya Buddha. This was housed in a temple she had built in the center of a lake, which was called Ramoche. She is generally referred to by Tibetans as Belsa, meaning ” Nepalese wife,” or Tritsun, ” Royal Lady.” Whereas Chinese princess Wencheng brought with her an image of Sakyamuni Buddha as a young prince. This was installed in a temple named Trulnang, which later came to be known as the Jokhang. She is referred t by Tibetans as ” Gyalsa,” meaning “Chinese wife.”

Based on the historical facts and warm relations, the then Government of Nepal granted political Refugee status to those citizens who had to leave their country under compulsion. Nepal’s support to the TIbetan refugees despite being geographically small country and limited resources is appreciated by the world community even today. During this most difficult period in our more than 50 years of our national history, the people of Tibet will always remain grateful and indebted to the Government and the people of Nepal.

In May 1960, Nepal requested assistance from the international committe of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other aid organizations. The ICRC established emergency relief programs for the refugees. These programs were funded mostly by the United States Agency for International Development. In response to the refugees’ plight, the Tibetan government established the Kathmandu Tibetan Welfare Office, a branch of the Tibetan Ministry of Home Affairs. The Tibetan Welfare Office functioned as a liaison between the refugees, various aid organizations, and the Nepalese government. Also known as the office of Tibet, it continues to serve this vital role today.Tibetan_2

In the early 1960s, the Nepalese government arranged to provide the first caseload of Tibetan refugees with land. It established four “temporary” settlements:

(1) Chialsa, in the Solu Khumbu mountain range east of Kathmandu; (2) Tashi Palkhiel, on the outskirts of Pokhara; (3) Dhorpatan, in western Nepal; and (4) Jawalakhel, on the southern edge of Kathmandu. The Nepal Red Cross (NRC), founded in 1963, purchased the land for these settlements with funds donated by UNHCR.

Today, more than one dozen Tibetan Settlements exist in Nepal, including Jawalakhel, Boudha, Swayambunath, and Jorpati in the vicinity of Kathmandu; Jampaling, Paljorling, Tashi-Ling and Tashi Palkhiel in the Pokhara region; and Dhorpatan, Chialsa, Chairok, Shabrus and Lumbini in the northern regions of Nepal. The majority of these were established either in the early to mid-1960s or in 1974, when the Nepalese government terminated the Mustang guerilla operation. These camps have evolved into well built settlements, each with a gompa (Buddhist monastery), chorten (stupa), school and health clinic and Tibetan have become a visible minority in the city.

JAMPALING was opened in 1975 and is one of the two main settlements established for the rehabilitation of Tibetans from the Mustang guerrilla force. The community, which is located an hour east of Pokhara on the road to Kathmandu, has a small plot of agricultural land on which they grow maize, rice and vegetables. Their main source of income is derived from spinning wool, which is done in the traditional way, by hand. It also has a monastery, school, dispensary and elderly people’s home. The current population is about 750.
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PALJORLING opened in 1972, also established for the rehabilitation of Tibetans from the Mustang guerrilla force, although today the residents come from other areas as well. Situated in the heart of Pokhara, it is the smallest (in terms of land area) of the four settlements. The community maintains a small noodle workshop. It is estimated that between 325 Tibetans live in Paljorling.

TASHILING, located on the south side of Pokhara, began life a temporary camp set up by the UNHCR (United Nation High Commission for Refugees) for refugees who gradually found their way to Pokhara from the border areas of Tibet. At its zenith in 1964, 1000 residents lived at this camp but number continue to decrease as many emigrate to India, Europe, Canada and the United States. Currently, 750 Tibetans are said to reside at Tashiling.
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TASHI PALKHEL was established in 1962. It is located in the northern suburbs of Pokhara. The main source of income for residents of this settlement, which at present number 660, is derived from selling souvenirs. The community has schools, a modern dispensary, a branch of the Tibetan traditional medical center, and a large monastery.
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NAMGYAL TSEROK : More than 250 Tibetan refugees live on this hamlet on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River, just beyond Mt. Dhaulagiri in the world’s deepest gorge. They have stayed back there since they came from Tibet more than 60 years ago growing potatoes, barley, buckwheat and, more recently, organic apples on their small stretch of land. Trailside souvenir shops are also another source of sustenance for the struggling inhabitants of this small camp.

But the strong current of the southwest flowing river and the fierce wind coming from the south has been eroding the narrow trail leading to the camp, thus making it very dangerous for the refugees here to walk in and out of the camp.

After the monsoons, men and women collected stones and helped build stone cages to protect the land and trail. I spent three days in the camp last week and saw how much the wall cages meant to everyone in the settlement. Simple iron cages filled with rock bundles on the wall along the river have saved the camp from isolation. Another piece of good news is the new Annapurna trek route that is being developed (to avoid the Pokhara-Jomson road) will pass through the camp. We hope this will bring tourists to the settlement, which is already ready with a guest house and a café!

NORZINLING DHORPATAN is an isolated Tibetan settlement about five days walk from the nearest town of Pokhara. Dhorpatan was one of the bases of the Maoist rebels—its remote location and forest hills provided a safe haven but the rebels drove away the local tourists and the only source of income for the Tibetans who share the land.
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Samphelling (Walung) Tibetan Refugee Settlement – Nepal:The forceful intrusion of Communist China into Tibet in the year 1949 and the wake of abortive Tibetan National Uprising March 10th 1959 forced hundreds of Thousand Tibetans to leave their motherland in order to escape from Chinese tyranny and terror. At the same time many Tibetans from Tinge and Gampa Districts of Utsang, Tibet crossed the formidable YangmaGangla (Dangla Pass) measuring 6462 Mount pass and stayed in the region scattered through the upper region of Taplejung District. As soon as the Tibetan Administration in exile under the leadership of H.H. the Dalai La-ma got settled in Dharamsala in India. Tibetan Refugees worldwide began to resettle in the camps with help and guidance from the respective host Nation and aid from various foundation and organizations. Under the auspices and co-ordination of Nepal Government resettlement of Tibetans roaming in Nepal began in 1960. In 1964 under resettlement program the Walung Sampheling of Pholey, was established at the height of 3140 meter from the see level, and this settlement is located in one of the most remote regions of Nepal where we have Tibetan settlements established in the Kingdom of Nepal. The settlement 0fficer was appointed to look after the Tibetan Refugee families living scattered cluster areas of Walung, Yangma and Taplejung. Few families are also living District Sangusawa. Under rehabilitation program, sampheling Tibetan Settlement was established at Pholey at a place near village called Gunsa, a remotest place of Taplejung District under MechiAnchal a border with Indian State of Sikkim in East. This settlement is situated having no link of motorable roads from any big city of Nepal. It has a land aggregate of 275 ropanis at temperature below 15 degree centigrade and rain maximum of 40 cm. For any one visiting Pholey Tibetan Settlement, it can be reached by traveling from Via Biratnagr upto Suketar (Taplejung) by air or Kathmandu to Bithamore by air and then by road up to Taplejung. From Taplejung one has to trek for five to four days by passing Mitlung, Tawa, Churwa, Tapetok, Banphuk, Japan Tar, Zawubari, Jimjelesa and Gyablha. 0ne can find places for night halt in respective mentioned above places. Read more information>>>

SAMDUPLING – JAWALKHEL in carpet weaving to sustain their livelihood in future, the International Committee for Red Cross & Swiss Association for Technical Assistance (SATA) now called Swiss Development Co-operation (SDC) jointly establish the “Jawalakhel Handicraft Center ” in 1960 with the kind Co-operation of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal. The Jawalakhel Handicraft Center also known, as Tibetan Refugee Camp is the pioneer of Tibetan Carpet Industry in Nepal. In the JHC camp more than 1000 Tibetans are settled and out of this, we directly employ about 500 Tibetans are engaged in different process of carpet production like Wool sorting, Hand Brushing & Spinning of yarn, Dyeing, Ball Winding, Weaving, Trimming & Finishing etc. The Production Process is closely monitored on ever stages to produce the finest piece of Tibetan Hand-Woven Carpet. Because of these strict measures on quality control, Jawalakhel Handicraft Center has become the most popular Tourist Destination for Carpet Weaving Center in Nepal.Read more information

GANGCHEN: Boudha handicraft center was established by the Tibetan government in exile in the year 1970. Its primary objective is to alleviate the sufferings of Tibetan people by providing employment opportunity and imparting quality education, this center also started sponsorship and scholarship programs through some foreign help, but unfortunately in the year 2003 it all ended after being in full service for 35 long years. The reason for its closure was a huge deficit in business. People became jobless and they faced lots of hardships, they lost many of the facilities that were associated with handicraft center and with it their living standard dropped, but after some years, some of the senior youth gathered and planned to establish a youth association, entitling Gangchen youth association in the year 2007. At present the ex-Boudha handicraft center is known as Gangchen community. GYA is a non political and nonprofit organization.

Estimates of the total number of Tibetan refugees currently living in Nepal differ. Approximately 20,000 were believed to have arrived in 1959 during the initial conflict. Many more arrived in the ensuing years, however these numbers were reduced as Tibetans emigrated to other countries. According to the demograhic survery of Tibetan Exile conducted by Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala in 2009, the population of Tibetan refugees in Nepal stands as 13,500.