On Tuesday the US Congress passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) and outgoing President Donald Trump may sign it into a law before handing over the baton to his successor Joe Biden. It is an important strategic development for India too. The US legislation calls for the establishment of an American consulate in Tibet’s main city of Lhasa, the absolute right of Tibetans to choose a successor to the Dalai Lama, and the preservation of Tibet’s environment. The US-based Executive Director of the Students for a Free Tibet, Dorjee Tseten, told The Sunday Guardian that the TPSA is ground-breaking legislation, which will ensure that US foreign policy solidly upholds Tibetan human rights in a few key areas:

Religious Freedom: China is determined to dictate how Tibetans in Tibet practise their religion. Chinese President Xi Jinping even plans on appointing future successions of the Dalai Lama. The TPSA makes it an official US policy that only the Tibetan community has the right to appoint Tibetan Buddhist leaders.

Consulate in Lhasa: Having an American consulate in Tibet’s capital would help guarantee that human rights violations in Tibet do not go unnoticed. The TPSA would only permit future Chinese consulates in America if China allowed the US to build a consulate in Lhasa.

Tibet Climate Crisis: The TPSA also would require the US government to address water security and environmental issues in Tibet, which provides water to more than one billion people in Asia and is currently warming at a rate three times faster than the global average. This bill calls for a stronger international response to monitor the environmental catastrophe on the Tibetan plateau.

Vijay Kranti, an authority on Tibet affairs, told this writer that the passing of the TPSA is a historic development for the Tibetan freedom struggle against colonial China: “For the first time, a country has formally recognised Tibet as ‘an occupied country’; US Congress has formally put its weight behind the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration (Tibet’s Government in Exile), saying that the selection of next incarnation of the Dalai Lama (15th Dalai Lama) is purely an internal matter of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans and that the government of China has no right to interfere in it; the US Congress has made it obligatory for the current and future Secretary of State and all American government agencies to deal firmly with China on issues related to Tibet. Since this resolution was passed (with full support of Republicans as well as Democrats) in the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is going to be followed by the new Biden Administration.”

CELEBRATE NEW YEAR IN AN IGLOO

Now you don’t have to go to Greenland to see and stay in an igloo. You can usher in the New Year in a “desi igloo” in Manali and Lahul and Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh.

Although igloos are often associated with all Inuit and Eskimo peoples, they were traditionally used only by the people of Canada’s Central Arctic and Greenland’s Thule area. Other Inuits tended to use snow to insulate their houses, which were constructed from whalebone and hides. Snow is used because the air pockets trapped in it make it an insulator. On the outside, temperatures may be as low as -45°C (-49°F), but on the inside, the temperature may range from -7 to 16°C (19 to 61°F) when warmed by body heat alone. Now, igloo tourism is getting popular in Kullu. Two youths, Vikas Kumar and Tashi Dorje, of Manali are promoting igloo tourism near the Hamta Pass at Sainthen village for the past three years. They conceived the igloo idea in 2017. This year, they have built five igloos.

Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Vikas said that “Igloo experience is available just for a month or so. During extreme winter, when temperatures plummet drastically, it is congenial for giving shape to an igloo. As temperature increases, the structure melts rapidly.”

Inside their igloo, there is bedding, where tourists can stay at night. To maintain warmth inside, they provide the tourists hot water bottles and warm bedding system. Use of electric heaters or a bonfire inside the igloo for warming is prohibited. They decorate igloos at nights with electric lights with power generator outside.

“We charge Rs 5,000 per person for night stay in an igloo. They will be provided breakfast, lunch and dinner along with other snow activities”, the promoters said.

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com