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#3515, 12 December 2011
Tibetan Community-in-Exile: The Generation Y
Chok Tsering
Research Intern, CRP
email: choktsering@hotmail.com

The Tibetan community-in-exile is undergoing a phase of democratic transition starting from resignation of the Dalai Lama from his political power. This gives greater opportunity to the younger generations to take responsibility of the Tibetan struggle. The generation ‘Y’ can be defined as those who were born in the early 1970s and as late as the year 2000, who have mainly grown up in the technological world.The traditional Tibetan society has been generally described as orthodox and feudal where the government was run by elite bureaucrats and monastery people. With the change of the social system in exile, the generation Y has brought many changes to the Tibetan society. This article focuses on the major changes among the younger generations especially among the diaspora.

What are the changes?

With the introduction of modern education along with traditional Tibetan Buddhist studies, the younger generations have been indoctrinated with a more open attitude to sports and Youth culture which has brought dynamic changes in their way of thinking. The first major change was the formation of Tibetan National Football Association (TNFA) in 2000 with the aim to organize football tournaments and to promote the interests of the youth. Tibetans were the first to introduce the game of football in the early 20th century but the thirteenth Dalai Lama was severely criticized by the monks and gradually it led to closing of all the football training centers. In 1981, the first club level tournament was organized in memory of the late Great Mother of the Dalai Lama. After the formation of TNFA, the team was invited by many western football clubs and it got huge appreciation from the western world. Last month, the same team announced the introduction of a women’s football team in the Tibetan community which shows the popularity and the interest of Tibetan youth in this game. It also gives a new career option to the youth.

Another important change was the initiation of the Miss Tibet Pageant in 2002 by Lobsang Wangyal which drew strong criticisms from various sections within the Tibetan society. The pageant continued against all odds and in June this year, it celebrated its 10th anniversary. Over the years, a few participants of Miss Tibet have also participated in international pageants. The participants in this beauty pageant have increased rapidly in the last few years and Tibetan women from the western countries have also participated in the contest as this year’s Miss Tibet was from Switzerland. This initiation by a single person has given courage to the Tibetan women to come out of the age-old traditional system and paved way for their identities in the modern world. However, this can also be seen in the context of a growing commercialization that has crept into the Tibetan world, as an effect of globalization.

In 2008, the Dalai Lama strongly emphasized on the professional education of young Tibetans so that they could give a better shape to development of the exile community and Tibet at large. Therefore, some of the young Tibetans took the initiative to establish Global Tibetan Professional Network (GTPN). This network of Tibetan professionals was created with the objective of exchanging ideas, information and resources within the network. It also provides young students with mentorship and guidance through various career options. Tibetans born and brought up in exile are more or less all educated or at the least, they have passed the basic school system. As a result of rising literacy among Tibetan youth, a generation gap is also become more and more visible.

Though one of the disturbing trend evident among the youth is growing unemployment. Job opportunities are less in general, so employment in lower grade jobs has increased. Unemployment is making youth to take up drugs which might create a greater problem in the exile community. So if the Central Tibetan Administration is unable to create more jobs for its younger generations, these youth will take up odd jobs and will get absorbed into other communities. Older Tibetans and some sections of the youth have already voiced their sense of cultural loss among younger generations. Although trying to maintain traditional marital alliances, marriages of Tibetan youths have taken place outside the traditionally accepted groups. In fact, Tibetans getting married to Indians, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Westerners is not uncommon.

Implications and Future Possibilities

The challenges faced by the Tibetans are multifarious. The biggest challenge is that of preserving the Tibetan identity, while embracing modern ways of living. A number of younger generations are estranged from the traditional way of life. Keeping the cultural tradition alive is an essential tool for preserving the Tibetan identity and is also imperative for their struggle. But increasing inter-marriages with other communities especially in the west will lead to loss of the Tibetan identity. It might also be the re-selection of a different identity maintaining the Tibetan issue at core. In future, the new generation of Tibetans is likely to bring major changes in the Tibetan community which may come at the cost of the unique cultural heritage of the Tibetans.

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