Delhi changes Karmapa tune

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By NISHIT DHOLABHAI
  • Published 5.03.11
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New Delhi, March 4: India has indicated it recognises Ugyen Trinley Dorje as the Karmapa, signalling an about-turn by the government whose China policy has been marked by caution.

Home secretary G.K. Pillai today became the first central government representative to refer to Dorje, 25, as the “Karmapa”, and declared him the second-highest Tibetan monk after the Dalai Lama.

Till now, Delhi would make no bones about its suspicion that Dorje was an agent of China, which had crowned him the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa at Tibet’s Tsurphu monastery.

“The Karmapa is a spiritual leader. He is second in ranking to the Dalai Lama,” Pillai said. “Currently, the Karmapa is in prayer and by the end of March he will write to the home ministry (about) how he will put his house in order.”

Last month, Himachal Pradesh chief secretary Rajwant Sandhu too had referred to Dorje as the Karmapa.

Yet, just five weeks ago, a senior central government official had said Dorje was “not a Karmapa” after Himachal police seized Rs 8.5 crore in Indian and foreign currency from his residence and arrested some of his aides. Security agencies accused Dorje of planning to build “Chinese-friendly Tibetan institutions” across the Indian Himalayas.

Sources said the Centre’s correspondence always referred to Dorje as a “Lama” and as “one of the claimants to the Karmapa seat”.

The policy shift comes after protests against the government action on Dorje, who has followers worldwide. Sources said New Delhi got isolated because the Dalai Lama himself recognises Dorje as the Karmapa and recently gave him a clean chit.

The Karmapa’s office is now being probed by the Enforcement Directorate and the directorate of revenue intelligence. Pillai today said steps needed to be taken so that a spiritual leader like Dorje did not get into such embarrassing situations in the future.

A year after Dorje’s January 2000 “escape” to India, the NDA government’s cabinet committee on security had decided “he is not in our interest”. The UPA ratified the decision in 2004, sources said.