Dharamshala, Mar 31: In what must have sounded like music to the ears of Tibetans here, BJP leader Ram Madhav said on Saturday that Tibetans in India were not refugees. He said they could, at most, be said to be in exile. Madhav was speaking at the beginning of the year-long ‘Thank You India’ event. The event, organised by the Central Tibet Administration(CTA), marks 60 years of the Dalai Lama’s exile in India.

In February, the Centre had reportedly issued an advisory, telling senior leaders and bureaucrats to avoid such events, considering the fragility of the Indo-China ties. The venue was then shifted from Delhi to Dharamshala.

Meanwhile, at the event, Ram Madhav went on to say that the Dalai Lama was a family member. He said India had always empathised with those in trouble. India had always welcomed, with open arms and open hearts those in difficulty. He said Tibetans didn’t need to thank India because “brothers don’t thank each other; we are spiritual cousins”. He said India appreciated the desire of the Tibetans to go back and that the country’s best wishes were with them. He said they would be able to find their way back through dialogue.

Other dignitaries at the event included Union Minister for Culture Mahesh Sharma, Member of Parliament Shanta Kumar, Nobel Laureate the Dalai Lama, and CTA officials, including its Prime Minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangyay. Addressing the gathering, Sangyay said, “Our relation with India dates back to hundreds of years, not just 60 years. India is the guru and Tibet is a disciple. It’s duty to pay obeisance and touch the feet of the guru.”

The idea behind the event was to show gratitude to India for providing shelter to Tibetans 60 years ago. On the occasion, Narendra Chandra Das, 79-year-old retired havaldar of the Army, was felicitated as being the only surviving member of the delegation that received the Dalai Lama on his arrival in the country 60 years ago.