Monday, March 23, 2009

The early history...

God, in His Goodness has brought the Moravian Institute into being and made it what it is today- "a place of good for others". His will can be seen in coming together in Rajpur of His servant, Eliyah Thsetan Phunthsog, and of Tibetan refugees, mainly from Amdo.

God's will can be seen not only in the past service rendered to Tibetan refugees but also in the present-day service to people of many other communities: Hindi speakers, Nepalese, Gurkhas, Nagas, Ladakspas and lately Kanjars or Banjaras. The Institution today reflects as a microcosm the unity in diversity that is the Indian of today, and indeed the work made up of its numerous people yet bound by its common Humanity.

Early in 1959, E.T.Phunthsog came to Mussoorie in the district of Dehradun in Uttar Pradesh from his home in Leh, Ladak, Jammu and Kashmir. He was a scholar of repute in his homeland, formerly a high government official but now an ordained Minister of the Moravian Church. He had been seconded by the Moravian to the Bible Society to revise the New Testament into contemporary but standard Tibetan.

On the 10th if March the same year the Tibetans in Lhase rose up inn revolt against the Chinese occupation forces but were defeated. The Dalai Lama and about a hundred thousand Tibetans fled to Indian and Nepal. Some came with the Dalai Lama to Mussoorie, the temporary seat of his government of India set up a certain relief committee to help the Tibetans settle down. In addition many aid agencies and churches of the West helped to meet the immediate needs of the Tibetans. The exiles themselves worked hard to survive by doing any job that needed to be done. So, many laboured on road construction projects, especially near the Indo-Tibetan border. However, many of those who escaped the Chinese Red Army succumbed to infectious tropical diseases. Not only was everyone homeless, many were orphaned, made childless and separated from the members of their family forever.

Thus God brought to Mussoorie not only E.T.Phunthsog but also a group of Amdo Tibetans. These Amdo group, with which E.T.Phunthsog became so involved, consisted of about 200 families. When they first came to India they made a bare living by touring all over India staging Tibetan historical plays and cultural shows. Traveling was tiring and the earnings insufficient ; they longed to fund a place to put down new roots and raise their families. When they shared this longing with Rev. G. tharchin in Kalimpong during a visit there, he told them that if anyone could help them it was E.T.Phunthsog.

Thus, it was while E.T.Phunthsog and Pierre Vittoz were in Mussoorie , that the Amdo group leaders met the former for the first time. However, the great need of the group impressed itself upon home that inn 1961 he helped them to settle down in Rajpur and he with his immediate family also joined them. The major problem that confronted the settlers were: (i) Lack of money and jobs, (ii) illness, (iii) inability to converse in Hindi and English, (iv) lack of permanent settlement and (v) lack of education for the children. In order to help remove these problems, E.T.Phunthsog got permission from Moravian Church to keep working with the Tibetans in Rajpur instead of going back to Ladaks. immediate financial assistance helped alleviate the first problem temporarily, but amount obtained from the various sources was not enough. Only when the Moravian Church gave a grant for the establishment of small-scale cottage industries, were the settlers able to meet their basic needs. While the drama troupe continued to earn a little during the tourism the others began trades such as metalwork, carpentry, carpet weaving, knitting & tailoring. With the help of TEAM a Christian Service Council was set up to run a dispensary in Rajpur, Many Tibetans, especially tuberculosis patients, were helped. In order to take care of the co-operation with TEAM, began teaching a tutorial class of 9 adult students the basics of Hindi, English and Arithmetic.

While efforts were made for the permanent settlement of the group, E.T.Phunthsog, at the group request, opened a small school for their children. So it was that the "Tibetan Refugee School" began its first classes on the 2nd of April 1963. This open air school of twelve pupils and two teachers ( E.T.Phunthsog and his elder daughter, Mrs. Zhindey Kundan, who is still at the Institute) started what is now the Moravian Institute.