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Tibetan monk cremated in Nepal without protests

July 31, 2014

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Thousands of Tibetan exiles recited prayers and offered white and orange scarves Thursday during the cremation ceremony for a revered Tibetan monk, whose funeral in Nepal nearly fell victim to regional politics.

Nepal had initially given permission to let the remains of Shamar Rinpoche enter the country, but immediately withdrew amid concerns that Tibetan exiles would protest China’s rule over their homeland during the rites. Nepal strictly prohibits any activities considered to be anti-China.

During the Buddhist ceremony at the Shar Minub monastery near Katmandu, Tibetan exiles refrained from political protests. Police kept a close watch but did not interfere.

Rinpoche — who has followers in Nepal, India, Bhutan and Europe — built the monastery and preached there for several years. His followers said he wished to be cremated there.

He died last month in Germany at the age of 62.

“It was our Rinpoche’s wishes that he be brought to Nepal and we are all glad that his wishes are fulfilled despite days of uncertainty,” said Jit Lala Tamang, a monk who had been the Rinpoche’s disciple for the past 14 years.

In the weeks after Rinpoche’s death, Nepal refused to allow his body into the country, saying he was a citizen of the nearby Himalayan nation of Bhutan, not Nepal. The threat of anti-China demonstrations during the funeral was likely a significant factor in the refusal, according to analysts and exile leaders.

On Tuesday, the Nepal government reversed itself, citing the monk’s contribution to Buddhism in the country.

Tibetan exiles hold frequent anti-China demonstrations in Nepal but authorities quickly break up the rallies, saying they cannot allow protests against a friendly nation.

Thousands of Tibetan exiles live in Nepal, and many travel through Nepal on the way to Dharmasala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives and the self-declared exile government is based.

China claims Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries. Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent until China occupied it in 1950.

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