Escape of His Holiness

As the day of escape neared, the north banks of the Kyichu River, which His Holiness' entourage was to cross late in the evening of 17 March 1959, were guarded by three commanders and their troops detailed from Gangkar Dzong, while the south banks of the river were safely guarded by the Khampa volunteers dispatched from Norbulingkha. Thus the escape of His Holiness and a small number of his entourage was safe and smooth from the most difficult and dangerous stage of escape. By the time the Chinese started the bombardment intended to destroy the palace along with His Holiness on the morning of the 20th, His Holiness' entourage was safely heading towards Lhuntse Dzong escorted by volunteers. Thousands of people got killed by shelling in Norbulingkha, but many more crossed the Kyichu river and followed His Holiness. Details were narrated and acknowledged in the pages of My Land and My People by His Holiness.

Athar and Lotse, who had parachuted to the Samyi, Lhokha, area in 1957, had maintained contact with the organization since then. They had also contacted Phala, the Lord Chamberlain of H.H., through Gonpo Tashi at an earlier stage. Now they were part of the escorting team and had a much more important role to play as they kept providing Washington with vital progressive reports of His Holiness' journey and also served as a communications link for the Dalai Lama. Through coded message, Washington gave its assurance of any assistance that His Holiness might need; our radio team also received advice for His Holiness to travel in a small group and not delay reaching the border. From Lhuntso Dzong our radio team transmitted a coded message to Washington on their Rs-1 radio relaying the request from His Holiness to Prime Minister Nehru for asylum in India. Washington decoded then re-encoded to the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and there decoded and then delivered the message to the Prime Minister. A positive reply from the Prime Minister granting asylum for His Holiness was sent via reverse route and received by our radio team at Mangmang, a small border town. The coded message also included information about a reception team of Indian officers waiting at the border checkpost for His Holiness' entourage.

In accordance with the instruction given by the CIA via radio with regard to His Holiness' travel, the escort team travelling with His Holiness was made small so that it could not be spotted from the air in case of searches by aircraft. But volunteers troops in small groups were deployed everywhere and every possible route of advance by the enemy was blocked. The possibility of interception by the Chinese troops and of pursuit by cavalry were also taken into consideration and appropriate measures were taken.

Our organization's escorting team escorted His Holiness and the entourage of 37 members safely till 30th March, when they crossed the Indian border at Chu Tangmo, where they were warmly received by the Indian reception team. Our escorting team had at its disposal a sum of Rs. 200,000/- which was contributed to His Holiness to meet the expenses later on the journey through India. His Holiness and the Cabinet embers were very appreciative of the contribution and left behind some Tibetan currencies in exchange. Thus Chushi Gangdruk was able to foil the evil intentions of the Communist Chinese and the escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, often described as the most dramatic flight of the century, actually occurred.

After having received blessings and having bid goodbye to His Holiness' entourage, our escorting team returned to their respective posts. But in many front areas, the Chinese troops crossed the Tsongpo river and attacked our posts everywhere and in some places our volunteers had to withdraw from their holds.

Meanwhile having heard through radio the news about the uprising in Lhasa, bombing of the palace by Communists, and escape of His Holiness from Lhasa, General Gonpo Tashi and volunteers of the Northern regiment started from Shota Lhosum, crossing Shargungla, Nubgangla, and forcing their way through Lharigo, Shounang and Kongpo, where the Derge and Amdo divisions were already deployed. The new recruits in the local area formed a Kongpo Division, and the forces of these three divisions later engaged in full-force battles against the Communist Chinese. The regiment kept moving through Kongpo Gyadha towards Lhokha. They crossed the Tsongpo at Lhukhangdu and came to Lhagyari, but our headquarters was already in move then. In the second week of April, General Gonpo Tashi and the regiment made it to Lhuntse Dzong, but by then news was also pouring in about defeat and retreats of our troops from many strategic positions. News about the capture of Tsona by the enemy was heard when the regiment reached Nyan Jhora, a focal point. The regiment considered the recapture of Tsona but odds against it were too great, so they gave up the idea and decided to move northeast, first towards Magola and, after crossing Magola, then back eastward to reach Mon-Tawang. Before leaving from Nyan Jhora, General Gonpo Tashi wanted to have a full-force battle against the enemy as a parting shot, but his military advisers advised him otherwise. By now the mass exodus of Tibetans had already started, and the only and best thing they could do was to keep the escape routes safe for the masses of Tibetans pursued by Chinese troops. So General Gonpo Tashi thought that it was time to become refugees in India. On April 21, 1959, General Gonpo Tashi and volunteers of both the Northern and Southern Regiments began crossing the frontier line at Magola and entered into Indian territory with heavy hearts. The volunteers in other border areas followed suit. As they crossed the border, the volunteers, including General Gonpo Tashi, had mixed feelings of happiness and sadness. Happiness-the Dalai Lama had safely escaped to India and they were also now stepping into a safety zone without the futility of fighting against the Communist Chinese. Sadness-as they were now leaving behind their beloved motherland and walking into an unknown land with an unknown future as refugees.

In spite of enormous Chinese superiority in numbers and in military equipment, the Chushi Gangdrug resistance force inflicted terrible damage to the mighty Chinese army.

 

 

 

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