Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in July. If the
Karmapa Charitable Trust prevails, then a process will begin to
return Rumtek to the management of the Trust. Should this happen,
it will not be a happy day for Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches. Then,
it will be discovered just how many relics have gone missing from
Rumtek's treasury during Gyaltsab Rinpoche's watch. We can only
guess that this news would be discouraging for followers of Situ
and Gyaltsab Rinpoches.
Blurry-eyed Account of Legal Cases
this context, we find Lea Terhune's confusing discussion of court
cases related to the Karmapa controversy. On p. 231 of Karmapa:
The Politics of Reincarnation, Terhune says that “Shamarpa
continued to file court cases through his agents in Sikkim and elsewhere.
Some of the cases go so far as to accuse the Dalai Lama of colluding
with the Chinese. Most of the cases, which amount to harassment,
were dismissed.” In an endnote, Terhune lists eight cases in particular
that accuse “people who support the Tibetan cause and HH Dalai Lama
XIV as being anti-Indian, Chinese spies and so on,” according to
Deepak Kumar Thakur, an attorney retained by Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches
(endnote number 170, pp. 296-298).
treatment of legal cases is typical of Terhune's whole narrative.
She starts with some genuine historical facts to establish credibility.
Then she weaves these facts into a confusing web of half-truths
and unsupportable claims. The result is a conclusion that is the
exact opposite of the true state of affairs. In this case, Terhune
claims that Shamar Rinpoche's group is losing in court. In fact,
the opposite is true—on the one major case in the controversy, to
regain possession of Rumtek Mona stery, Shamar Rinpoche's group
Three Big Mistakes
us demonstrate this here by addressing Terhune's major claims. First,
Shamar Rinpoche has filed a small number of legal cases, but only
one is significant for the Karmapa controversy, as we said above,
the case of the Karmapa Charitable Trust to regain management of
Rumtek. The other cases Terhune lists are either minor cases or
filings by people on their own initiative without the participation
of Shamar Rinpoche. We will discuss these below.
Shamar Rinpoche has never filed a case or authorized anyone else
to file a case against HH Dalai Lama. This is by design. Shamar
Rinpoche has deep respect for the dignity of His Holiness' office
and would not want involve HH Dalai Lama in undignified legal disputes.
While there may be some cases pending against HH Dalai Lama, they
were filed against the wishes of Shamar Rinpoche by people who are
operating on their own initiative, separately from Shamar Rinpoche.
We also discuss these below.
Terhune omits a good deal of information about legal affairs that
would be embarrassing to Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches. We will discuss
this at the end of this piece, but first, let us detail the cases
that Terhune claims were filed by Shamar Rinpoche.
Connections that Don't Exist
from the case to regain control of Rumtek, all the others that Terhune
lists are either unimportant cases or cases filed without the participation
of Shamar Rinpoche, and, in some instances, against the wishes of
by Shamar Rinpoche's Agent Dugo Bhotia
is correct that Dugo Bhotia, a genuine member of Shamar Rinpoche's
organization, did file two cases. She is also correct that one of
these cases, filed in 1994, was against HH Dalai Lama for recognizing
Orgyen Trinley as Karmapa. However, Bhotia did this on his own initiative
before consulting Shamar Rinpoche. Indeed, once Rinpoche discovered
that Bhotia had filed such a case, Rinpoche advised him to immediately
withdraw the case, because, as we noted above, Rinpoche did not
wish to file cases against HH Dalai Lama. Rinpoche also wanted to
avoid any repercussions from Sikkim Chief Minister Bhandari, whose
strong-arm rule we have discussed in an earlier installment. Accordingly,
as Terhune notes, Dugo Bhotia did quickly withdraw this case.
in August 1998, Dugo Bhotia filed another case in the High Court
of New Delhi against lifting the travel ban on Situ entering India
. Terhune lists this as two cases, but it is in fact simply two
filings in the same case. After Situ's long-time friend and high-powered
defense counsel Ram Jet Malani became Law Minister, he had removed
the travel ban, and Bhotia filed a case to reverse this action.
As an Indian citizen, Bhotia's argument was that Situ Rinpoche still
represented a national security risk and should not be allowed back
in the country. In this case, Dugo Bhotia did not win everything
he asked. However, he did win half. Let us explain.
court decided that it would not interfere with the decision of the
government of India to lift the ban on Situ Rinpoche, which was,
in effect, a fait accompli. So Situ Rinpoche won that part of this
just after this decision, Dugo Bhotia re-filed his plea as a Special
Legal Petition. In response to the SLP, the court decided against
Situ Rinpoche, concluding that he should remain banned from eight
nor thea stern states in India , including Sikkim , for reasons
of national security. This decision quite spoiled the strategic
plan of Law Minister Malani, who had planned to first lift the ban
on Situ Rinpoche entering India, and then to gradually lift the
state-level bans. Indeed, Malani's action essentially backfired—now
the eight-state ban was made permanent. This barred Situ Rinpoche
from the areas he most wanted to enter, making his victory hollow.
any event, Dugo Bhotia's case against lifting the travel ban on
Situ Rinpoche was not an important case in the Karmapa controversy.
It pales in importance to the Rumtek case.
by People Unrelated to Shamar Rinpoche
then lists other cases filed by Shree Narayan Singh. Singh is not
connected to Shamar Rinpoche. He does know Rinpoche and has paid
him occasional visits in the past, as a disciple of the late Sixteenth
Karmapa. However, when Singh filed his case against HH Dalai Lama,
Shamar Rinpoche strongly objected. Indeed, to distance himself from
Singh's action, Rinpoche instructed the staff of the Karmapa International
Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi to refuse admittance to Singh
in the future. Shamar Rinpoche also contacted the Dalai Lama's minister
of religion and cultural affairs to inform him that he, Shamar Rinpoche,
was not connected with Singh's case. We will release the letters
exchanged between Shamar Rinpoche and the Dharamsala administration
on this issue in the near future. Suffice it to say here that the
Dalai Lama's government-in-exile acknowledged that it understood
that Shamar Rinpoche was not involved in Singh's case.
other case Terhune lists, filed by the Dr. Ambedkar Bodhi Kunj Foundation
(a group unknown to Shamar Rinpoche) against the Dalai Lama and
others, is also unconnected to Shamar Rinpoche. The Dharamsala administration
has acknowledged that it knows this to be the case as well.
Terhune Doesn't Mention that Embarrass Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches
that we have answered Terhune's claims, we should address the biggest
problem with her discussion of the legal cases in the Karmapa controversy—that
she omits to discuss two cases particularly embarrassing to Situ
and Gyaltsab Rinpoches. The first was an unsuccessful attempt by
the two rinpoches to gain control of KIBI. The second were criminal
charges filed by the New Delhi Police against the two rinpoches'
we will discuss the case to gain control of KIBI. In 1994 Situ Rinpoche
appointed his follower Orgyen Jigme to file a case against the Trust
to seek possession of KIBI. Jigme retained Situ's old friend Ram
Jet Malani, the high-powered attorney mentioned above who would
later become Law Minister and attempt to lift the travel ban on
Situ Rinpoche. Between November 28 and December 4, 1994 , Taiwanese
millionaire Chen Lu An, an associate of Situ Rinpoche, visited India
. His first stop was Gangtok, to pay the large bribe to Sikkim Chief
Minister Bhandari that we discussed in our previous installment
(see “Setting the Record Straight #2,”
May 20, 2004 ). After concluding his business in Sikkim , Chen proceeded
to New Delhi to make another payment. There, in a meeting with Situ
Rinpoche at the Sinclair Hotel in Siliguri, Chen presented $100,000
in cash to cover attorney Malani's fees.
agreed, Malani filed the case in early 1995 at the High Court in
New Delhi . The Trust as defendant was represented by attorney PK
Ganguli. Much to the dismay of his client, Malani's case turned
out to be relatively straightforward—at the first hearing, the entire
case was dismissed by the judge.
brings us to the criminal prosecution. On March 17, 1994 , during
the installation of Thaye Dorje as Seventeenth Karmapa at KIBI,
angry monks from Situ Rinpoche's monastery in Himachal Pradesh,
Sherab Ling, gathered outside to try to disrupt the ceremony. They
threw stones at the building and attempted to enter the premises.
A fight ensued which left one man injured and caused property damage.
Afterwards, the New Delhi police arrested eight monks from among
the protesters and began criminal proceedings against them for disturbing
the peace. On September 15, 2003 at Patela House High Court in New
Delhi, these eight defendants finally pled guilty, a full nine years
after their arrest. In their guilty plea, the defendants admitted
that they had organized the protest and initiated the stone-throwing.
The court sentenced the defendants to time served and a promise
not to interfere with KIBI's affairs in the future.
Fact-checking or Propaganda Tactic?
presentation here is quite misleading. Is she just an unskilled
researcher? And did the editors at Wisdom Publications fail to sufficiently
check the facts in her discussion?
do not know for sure, but we believe that this is not just a case
of negligence. Indeed, we wonder if Terhune has intentionally twisted
the facts of the legal history of the Karmapa controversy to make
things look rosier for followers of Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches
who would be greatly disappointed to know the truth. Followers in
western countries in particular might be easily misled because they
are far away from the scene of conflict and are unfamiliar with
the intricacies of Tibetan exile politics.
believe that knowing the truth about these court cases will help
people make up their own minds about the Karmapa issue. The only
case that really matters in the controversy concerns Rumtek. When
this case will be decided, then the controversy will surely be on
its last legs. Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches know that their appeal
to the Supreme Court represents their last hope, but that it is
a dim hope at best. We hope that all Karma Kagyu followers, whatever
their positions in this unfortunate controversy, might discover
the truth for themselves. This can only help their practice. We
also pray that once the truth is widely known, harmony will return
to our ancient and noble lineage.
International Karma Kagyu Buddhist Organization
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