Youth jumps off Howrah bridge for Free Tibet cause

KOLKATA: A 26-year-old Tibetan youth jumped off Howrah bridge late on April 2 to protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Dandhup Phunsak's body was found on Saturday evening near Baja-Kadamtala ghat and identified by his mother.

The last SMS Dandhup sent was not to his family but a member of an organization working for the Tibetan cause. He died wearing a 'Free Tibet' T-shirt.

On March 26, a fellow Tibetan exile, Jamphel Yeshi, had set himself on fire before hundreds of people in New Delhi to protest against Chinese president Hu Jintao's visit. Dozens of Tibetans have committed suicide over the past year demanding freedom for Tibet but it's the first time that a Tibetan killed himself in Kolkata.

Tenzin Tsundue, a Dharamshala-based writer and Tibetan activist, said: "After 33 self-immolations, today we have a Tibetan martyr who drowned himself in the Ganga to highlight the suffering of Tibet under brutal Chinese occupation. Dandhup used to call me to discuss how to spread the message of Free Tibet across India. I had never met him but he came across as a very spirited youth who was willing to do anything for the Tibetan struggle."

Dandhup was a Scottish Church alumnus and had lived most of his life in Kolkata. His family had fled Tibet
and settled down in a Tibetan refugee colony in Darjeeling before moving to Kolkata. His brother works here.

On April 3, a police patrol team had found a cellphone and some papers on Howrah bridge. From that they tracked Dandhup's mother, who told them that he was missing since the previous day. She identified the belongings as that of Dandhup's. The family spent six nights hoping against hope but on Saturday, police told them that they might have found his body.

Dandhup's kin weren't the only ones looking for him. Rubi Mukherjee of Ganasamnnay, an organization that works for Tibetan refugees, was also worried. She said that Dandhup had sent her two text messages before his death. "On March 30 and April 2, he texted me to say that he wanted to do something to mark the Free Tibet movement," said Rubi, adding that he was inspired by Jamphel Yeshi's self-immolation and "was eager to do something similar". "I tried to stop him. I told him not to do anything silly," said Rubi.

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