Self-immolation or setting oneself on fire is a form of protest that is virtually unknown in the western world. However, in Asian cultures, self-immolation has become immensely popular with people setting themselves on fire while protesting about miniscule causes as well. So far, the Tibetan resistance had not adopted the form of protest widely, though recently the trend has spiked. Tibetans living in exile as well as those facing oppression in China are increasingly choosing fiery death while protesting against the political oppression they are facing at the hands of Chinese authorities.
What is remarkable and shocking about these incidences is that an increasing number of laymen and women have taken up the self harming form of protest of late. Previously, self immolation was being practiced only by Tibetan monks as a form of protests against the Chinese rule and the persecution of Tibetans in the country. Of late, the majority of self immolators have been average Tibetans who are adopting the method to the attention of the international community to the problems that Tibetan are facing in China as well as in exile.
The Tibetan refugee settlement in Dharamshala, India has been the seat of the Dalai Lama for quite some time now and it is been rather shocking to see the sheer number of people that have taken this drastic step right under the nose of their government in exile and their spiritual leader. The people living in Tibet under the Chinese rule have also begun setting themselves on fire to protest the fact that the Chinese government has robbed them of their basic rights, stripped them of the rights to their ancestral lands and has left them living a life steeped in the fear of persecution.
On Thursday, father of two Tsering Nyamgal set himself on fire in Luqu, Tibet near the government offices. Namgyal did not survive the injuries. According to a Washington-based advocacy group, International Campaign for Tibet, since February 2009, as many as 74 Tibetans have died from self-immolation injuries while the total number of Tibetan to self-immolate ahs reached 89.
Most of these self-immolators have been reported to have been shouting anti-china slogans while setting themselves on fire. Human Rights Watch, however, has stated that a campaign to stop the self-immolations has been put into action by the authorities in the ethnically Tibetan part of Qinghai called Huangnan. The authorities have published a local decree stating that households and families of self-immolators will not receive any benefits from the public benefit policies and that the funds directed by the states to their villages would be stopped.