NEW DELHI - Nearly six decades after he fled his homeland, Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama had an emotional reunion on Sunday with the border guard who escorted him into India when he was 23 years old.
The Buddhist monk, now 81, met the border guard, Naren Chandra Das, who is 79, in Guwahati, the capital of the northeastern Indian Assam state, at a ceremony organized by the state government.
The Dalai Lama had trekked for two weeks across the Himalayas in 1959 disguised as a soldier and seeking asylum in India, following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.
Embracing Das, who escorted him for part of his journey in India, the Tibetan spiritual leader said he was very happy to meet with him. “Looking at your face, I now realize I must be very old too,” he told him in jest.
It was the first exchange of words between the two. Das recalled he and several other guards who escorted the Dalai Lama had been given orders not to speak to him when he crossed into India. They had never met since.
Das later told reporters he was overwhelmed by the warmth with which the Dalai Lama met him.
‘I experienced freedom’
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who arrived in Guwahati en route to the famous Buddhist Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, said he had an emotional attachment to the region that revived his memories of escape from Tibet.
The Dalai Lama recalled how when they sent some men to the Indian border, they readily agreed to give them entry. “The days prior to my arrival in India were filled with tension and the only concern was safety, but I experienced freedom when I was received warmheartedly by the people and officials and a new chapter began in my life,” the Press Trust of India quoted him as saying.
The visit has raised China's ire. Beijing, which calls the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist, has strongly protested the Indian government's plans to host him in the sensitive border state of Arunachal Pradesh, that is controlled by New Delhi, but is also claimed by Beijing.
The Indian government has responded by saying it is a religious visit and has no political meaning. The Dalai Lama has called China's opposition "normal."