Dalai Lama Has Emotional Reunion 58 Years On with Former Rifleman Who Escorted Him During Escape to India

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-04-03 |
His Holiness the Dalai Lama embraces the guard who escorted his during his flight from Tibet in 1959. Photo by Tenzin Choejor. From dalailama.comHis Holiness the Dalai Lama embraces the guard who escorted his during his flight from Tibet in 1959. Photo by Tenzin Choejor. From

His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Sunday shared an emotional reunion with one of the seven guards from the Assam Rifles, India’s oldest paramilitary force, who escorted the spiritual leader in India during his escape from Tibet in March 1959. Visibly moved, His Holiness embraced Naren Chandra Das, now 79, during a special ceremony organized by the state government of Assam in the city of Guwahati.

The Dalai Lama is on a 12-day tour of India’s far northeast, eliciting vocal objections from China, which has warned that the politically sensitive visit could affect bilateral ties between the two Asian powers. China has long-standing territorial disputes with India, with both nations claiming overlapping sovereignty in the remote Himalayan region. During the tour, His Holiness is scheduled to give public talks, consecrate a new Tara Temple in Lumla, Arunachal Pradesh, and to give a series of teachings, initiations, and empowerments.*

The 81-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate also presented a taditional silk scarf to the retired sergeant. The Dalai Lama was 23 and Das was 22 when they met for the first time on the McMahon Line that marks the northern limit of Indian territory.

“Thank you very much . . . I am very, very happy to meet such an old member of the Assam Rifles who guarded and escorted me to India 58 years ago,” the Dalai Lama said in a speech after the reunion. His Holiness acknowledged the passage of time since his previous encounter with his former guard. “Looking at the old soldier who brought me from the border safely, I realize that I too have become old now,” he noted. (Hindustan Times, The Times of India)

Dressed in the uniform of the Assam Rifles, Das, the last known surviving member of the escort assigned to receive the Dalai Lama on Indian soil, recalled accompanying the Dalai Lama on the final leg of his perilous journey.

“Guards of Assam Rifles Platoon No.9 had brought the Dalai Lama from Zuthangbo and handed him over to [seven] of us at Shakti. We brought him to Lungla, from where he was escorted on his onward journey to Tawang by another group of guards,” said Das, who retired in 1982 with the rank of havildar, or sergeant. He has four daughters and three sons and lives in northern Assam’s Sonitpur District. (Hindustan Times)

“It was just three years that I had joined the Assam Rifles. I was then a rifleman posted at Tawang,” Das recalled. “On 29 March 1959, seven of us were tasked to escort the Dalai Lama safely to Indian territory. The journey began the next day. There was no road there then and it took us a day to cover the distance on foot. We were armed with .303 rifles and I was his bodyguard. He [the Dalai Lama] was on horseback while we walked. All seven of us were relieved of duty when we had reached Tawang.” (The New Indian Express)

Asked whether there had been any interaction with the Dalai Lama during that fateful journey, Das replied that the guards were not permitted to talk with the monk. “Our duty was only to guard and escort him during a part of his journey,” he said, adding that there were no Chinese in the border area at that time. “It was Tibet then and China's border was further north and not with India but with Tibet.” (Hindustan Times, The Times of India)

The Tibetan spiritual leader with Naren Chandra Das, retired sergeant of the Assam Rifles. From hindustantimes.comThe Tibetan spiritual leader with Naren Chandra Das, retired sergeant of the Assam Rifles. From

“I cannot tell you how excited I am today. Those two minutes [when Dalai Lama hugged me on stage for the first time] are the best moment of my life,” Das obsrved, his eyes becoming moist. Asked what the Dalai Lama whispered in his ear while they embraced, he replied: “He was happy to see me.” (The New Indian Express, Hindustan Times)

* Schedule (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

See more

Dalai Lama meets long-lost ‘friend’ who escorted him to safety (The New Indian Express)
Meet the havildar who received Dalai Lama 58 years back (The Times of India)
Dalai Lama meets Assam Rifles jawan who escorted him to India 58 years ago (Hindustan Times)
58 years later, Dalai Lama meets jawan who escorted him to India from Tibet (ANI)
Dalai Lama visits northeastern India, despite Chinese warning (Deutsche Welle)

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