Pemako - Migration - Migration From Tibet During The 20th Century

Migration From Tibet During The 20th Century

During the early 20th century, various waves of migrants from parts of the south-eastern Tibetan plateau, a region generally known as Kham, first began to arrive in areas immediately adjacent to Pemakö, such as the Mishmi Hills to the southeast and Chimdro to the east. In 1906/07, Noel Williamson reported a Tibetan settlement as established in the upper Dibang River area of the Mishmi Hills, whose settlers-originally arriving there for trade-came from the “province of Darge” in Kham at an unknown date. In 1913, the British Mishmi Expedition explored the upper Mathun Valley and came across a colony of Kham Tibetans settled at Mipi. They were refugees from a devastating flood in the Yidong Valley of Pome which had occurred around the turn of the century, and arrived in the Mishimi area via the neighbouring region of Chimdro. A further group of about two thousand Tibetans from parts of Kham, Derge, Powo and elsewhere arrived in the Mishmi hills gain via Chimdro around 1902/03, guided by Jampa Jungne, the head of Riwoche monastery in Kham. Jampa Jungne interpreted imperial China’s western expansion onto the eastern Tibetan Plateau at the time as a sign to depart for Pemakö, and thus escape military invasion and colonisation. Disillusioned after conflicts with the local Mishmi inhabitants, and convinced that this place was not the hidden land they sought, the majority of the settlers returned to Tibet around 1909. The numbers of migrants arriving around the Pemakö region from eastern Tibetan regions such as Chamdo, Dragyab, Gonjo and Derge gradually increased, and they mainly settled in the Chimdro valley and around Metog Dzong. With their fellow countrymen on the southern side of the mountain range, these Tibetan migrants established extensive trade relations with several groups in the Abor Hills. During the same period, the Yang Sang Valley within Pemakö became the centre of Buddhist activities, where Buddhist masters and their disciples wandered through the hills discovering religious treasures and establishing several pilgrimage sites that seasonally attracted larger groups of pilgrims. Following the introduction of Indian administration several of these pilgrimage places fell into neglect because “o Tibetans from across the border come nowadays for worship as they used to do in large numbers in the past”. However, the number of permanent Tibetan settlers in Pemakö continued to increase. While stationed at Tuting, Hranga noted in the 1950s that, “By enquiry I found that these villages came into being some 46 years ago . Some of the Khambas (and I think most of them) came from Chimdru. ”In 1944, James was told by the Head Lama Pema Yeshi that his father was the one who started the Khampa colony in the Yang Sang Valley. At that time Pema Yeshi was a small boy. Around 1954 Lama Pema Yeshi died and his position as Head Lama was taken over by his son Sangtapji. Whereas in 1944, only two permanent Tibetan settlements were reported at Nyereng and Tasigong with 23 houses in total,in 1956 the Buddhist population, most of them being Khampa, consisted of around 350 people and they had established several villages, small monasteries and nunneries in the valley. Not everyone coming down the Tsangpo or Yang Sang Valley was attracted merely by the pilgrimage sites. Until the mid-1930s, the kingdom of Powo enjoyed a certain degree of independence from the Central Tibetan administration. It is also said that the 26th Kanam Depa of Powo had a penchant for shady characters and surrounded himself with them, and the region became infamous for its marauding gangs. The wilderness of Pemakö, and the fact that the southern part was controlled by the British and later Indian authorities, offered a good hideout for criminals, outlaws and tax fugitives as is reported in British and Indian administrative documents. The last major migration movement into Pemakö was set in motion around 1949/50 by China’s invasion in Tibet. In the beginning of this exodus, the majority of these refugees came from eastern Tibetan regions hoping to return to their homes after some time, thus they established temporary settlements around Metog Dzong and the Chimdro Valley. The situation in Chimdro must have been tense at that time and most likely due to a constant influx of new refugees, in January 1959 a “land dispute between the Rekho Khambas and the Riwoche Khambas caused massacre of the former by the latter”. Therefore more and more refugees desired to move further south into the Yang Sang Valley where not only the main pilgrimage sites are located, but also land was available. However, after the establishment of the Indian administrative post in Tuting in 1953, entering Indian Territory became more difficult and people crossing the border usually had to ask for permission. But not only Tibetan refugees have asked for permission to settle permanently on the Indian side. A number of Pemakö residents from north of the McMahon Line went down on permits to visit the holy places and their relatives, and in fear they might settle in Indian Territory, the Dzongpön of Pemakö requested the Indian administration not to allow any of his people to settle south of the border without his approval, to which the Indian officer agreed, since the Mishmi and Abor groups already had the feeling that Tibetans were encroaching on their land. The escape of the Dalai Lama in 1959 was a final signal for thousands to follow him into exile, and many from the nearby region of Kongpo and Pome also set out to Pemakö in the hope of reaching an earthly paradise with an unending supply of food, rivers of milk, and where people didn’t have to work to make a living. Often these refugees encountered Chinese troops on their way and many lost their lives or were captured and brought back. But those who were able to escape were welcomed by the local Buddhist population who provided them with food and shelter, as did the Indian Army. On the eve of the Sino-Indian War in 1962, many of the Memba and Tibetan families who had been settled in the Tsangpo Valley above the McMahon Line for generations, abandoned their homes and also sought refuge in India. This flow of refugees was finally stopped by the outbreak of the war in October 1962. From the mid-1950s until January 1962, the Indian administration registered 7004 refugees entering the Siang Frontier Division via Mechukha, Manigong and Tuting/Geling. Most of them were eventually evacuated to different Tibetan settlements around India, but around 1000 were allowed to settle temporarily in Tuting. The reason for all those who decided to settle permanently in southern Pemakö was the sacredness of the land, as I was informed. Ever since then, Tuting became the biggest settlement for southern Pemakö’s Buddhist population. Nevertheless the main areas of distribution, with the Memba settling in the Tsangpo Valley between Tuting and Geling, and the Khampa/Tibetan in the Yang.

Ever since Pemako was first opened to outside world thousands of people from different walks of life settled in the region, among them, earliest were the Tshangla people from Eastern Bhutan who fled their homeland and took refuge there. Among the first clans of Tshangla people were the Ngatsangpas (Snga Tsang pa)who paved ways for others to join them in their plight for a promised land free from sufferings. The exodus of Tshangla community continued from beginning of the 18th century right until the early 20th century. Political and religious turmoil in Tibet forced many Tibetans to join Tshangla people in Pemako a land where religious serenity pledge through many revered Lamas who had been to this land, prophesied by Guru Rinpoche in the mid-8th century to be a land of final call where devotees would be flocking at the time of religious persecutions, the last sanctuary for Buddhism, with the time Pemako's popularity grew more and more, with the popularity many Tibetan people particularly from Kham followed their Lamas and settled alongside Tshangla populace. Over the period of time Tibetans and Tshangla migrants amalgamated to form an homogeneous group called Pemako pas ( Pad-ma dkod pa). The process of infusion gave birth to a new Tshangla dialect called Pemako dialect. People who reside in Pemako enclave are of mixed blood originated from early Tshangla settlers and different Tibetan tribes, Standard Tibetan is also spoken in Pemako, with many different languages such Khampa language, Kongpo dialect, Poba Language etc.

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