Businesses remained shut in several parts of Ladakh on Monday in support of the Dalai Lama after a video of the spiritual leader kissing a child on his lips and asking him to “suck his tongue” triggered outrage last week, reported India Today.
Protest marches were held in all major towns of Ladakh, including Leh and Kargil. Similar demonstrations were also reported in Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala.
The call for the shutdown was given by the Ladakh Buddhist Association and the Ladakh Gumpa Association, which claimed that the controversy over the video was aimed at tarnishing the Dalai Lama’s image.
Several social media users had denounced the Dalai Lama’s video as “disgusting” and “shameful”. However, many Tibetans claimed that the video was misinterpreted. In Tibet, sticking out one’s tongue is reportedly a traditional form of greeting, they said.
Penpa Tsering, the head of Tibet’s government-in-exile, blamed “pro-Chinese sources” of widely sharing the video on social media, reported the BBC. However, he did not cite any evidence to back his claim.
On April 10, the Dalai Lama’s office had issued an apology for the incident. However, the statement added that the spiritual leader “often teases people in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before the camera”.
On Monday, protestors in Ladakh demanded an apology from mediapersons and others for maligning the Dalai Lama’s reputation, reported The Hindu.
“We condemn the act of circulating the unverified video,” said Thupstan Chhewang, former MP and president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association. “It has hurt our sentiments and has the potential to create a law and order problem if action is not taken against those who indulged in the act.”
Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, who attended the protest rally in Leh, said that highly objectionable words were used against the Dalai Lama, according to The Hindu.
“The Dalai Lama is not an individual but 21st century’s living Buddha. The act has hurt the sentiments of people.”
Protest march in Dharamshala
The Tibetan Youth Congress and student groups from Spiti, Kinnaur and other regions of Himachal Pradesh held a protest march on Monday in Dharamshala, reported the Hindustan Times.
Tibetan Youth Congress Gompo Dhondup claimed that the Dalai Lama was misjudged by the media and social media influencers on the basis of “a 5-second edited video”.
“We have come to know that firstly the video was circulated by the Chinese Communist Party,” he alleged, according to the newspaper. “They are experts in such propaganda and for the last six decades have been trying to defame His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] through every possible means.”
On April 13, a protest march was also held in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang in support of the Dalai Lama, according to The Print.