Dharamsala, Feb 24
Claims by Himachal Pradesh Police of a possible "Chinese connection" to the activities of Tibetan religious leader, the Karmapa, are falling apart with the Karmapa's office giving out details that there was nothing amiss in the money found from his monastery.
The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who resides at his temporary abode at the Gyuto Tantric University and monastery near here, has been at the centre of a controversy following the recovery of huge amounts of foreign currency, including millions of US dollars and Chinese yuan, from the monastery premises and elsewhere.
"Allegations against His Holiness the Karmapa were completely unfounded. While it is valid that there could have been better financial management by the office, he is in no way involved in administration and financial matters," the official spokesperson of the Karmapa's office, Deki Chungyalpa, told IANS.
"It is utterly unfair to question His Holiness' integrity and devotion based on such flimsy evidence and speculation."
The total amount linked to the monastery, in foreign currency of 25 countries and over Rs.10 million of Indian currency, was nearly Rs.8 crore (Rs.80 million/$1.8 million).
The recovery of over 1.2 million Chinese yuan from the Karmapa's monastery first led to allegations of him being a "Chinese agent" and even a "spy".
Information provided to the media by the Himachal Pradesh Police officers led to more rumours of the "Chinese connection" of the Karmapa, the third highest ranked Tibetan religious leader after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, who dramatically escaped from the Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa and arrived here January 2000.
A top police officer went on record to tell TV channels that SIM and data cards recovered from the Karmapa's monastery had Chinese markings, and claimed that people in the Karmapa's establishment had been talking to "Huawei" in China.
It later transpired that the data cards, from a leading Indian telecom brand, had been recovered from officials of the Karmapa's office and were being used for internet connectivity on laptops and computers.
The Huawei connection was just that the data cards were manufactured by the China-based Huawei Corporation, a leading global company in telecom products. Even the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited uses products from Huawei.
"Media reports that Chinese SIM cards were seized from the monastery are totally baseless and can be verified based on the seizure list prepared by the police, where there is no mention of any SIM cards having been found," the spokesperson added.
The Karmapa's office has been saying that all the money was from donations from followers the world over, including scores who come from Tibet and carry Chinese currency.
"With regard to the foreign currency seized from the monastery as per the requirement of FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act), the Karmapa Office of Administration created the Saraswati Charitable Trust and first applied for FCRA status on Oct 13, 2003, but did not receive permission to deposit foreign currencies."
"It thus created another trust, Karmae Garchen Trust on July 5, 2006, whose application for FCRA permission to deposit foreign currency was submitted Nov 16, 2010 (after the requisite wait of three years before a trust can apply for FCRA status) and is still pending.
"With little understanding of the legal procedures, and no legitimate means of depositing or exchanging this foreign currency, the money was left to pile up over time, waiting the day when it could be legitimately deposited," Deki further told IANS.
She added that there was no 'benami' (illegal) land deal done by the Karmapa's trust.
"The Karmae Garchen Trust sought and was granted preliminary approval by the state government to proceed with the plans to purchase the land."
However, in another official flipflop by the Himachal authorities, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal Feb 12 denied the "clean chit" given to the Karmapa just a day after Himachal's Chief Secretary Rajwant Sandhu said the Karmapa had no role in the huge amount of money recovered from his monastery.
"Neither have we held him guilty, nor given him a clean chit. Investigations are still on," Dhumal told reporters.
Both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government have recognised Ogyen Trinley Dorje, now 25, as the Karmapa reincarnate. This is significant because both sides have named their own candidates as reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second highest Tibetan religious leader after the Dalai Lama.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)