Chinese national Song Xialolan, 50, detained by Bihar Police at Bodhgaya on Thursday over suspicion of her involvement in anti-Dalai Lama activities, had first arrived in Delhi on December 20 from Dharamsala by bus, before she proceeded to Bodhgaya on December 22 by train. In Bodhgaya, she took shelter in a guest house on Maharani road. Her main motive- to trail Dalai Lama.
According to Bihar police, Song is a suspected Chinese spy who could be an alleged threat to the Tibetan spiritual leader.
Police sources told THE WEEK that Song was stuck in Dharamsala during the entire Covid period and would follow Dalai Lama. So post-pandemic, when the Nobel Laureate decided to travel, Song also picked up her bag to follow him to Bodhgaya.
Dalai Lama’s visit to Bodhgaya is part of his annual tour which was suspended for two years due to the pandemic.
It's not the first time, Song kept moving around in India. In October 2019, she visited Kangra, Dharamsala and even Bodhgaya in December 2019 where she attended Dalai Lama’s teachings for the first time. Thereafter she left for Nepal in January 2020 only to return again in December 2020 after extending her tourist visa for five years.
Predictably enough, she followed Dalai Lama to Bodhgaya. Security sources said Song’s case seems to be one of tourist visa violation, more than spying, as spy craft of a much more sophisticated kind can be undertaken by Chinese elements who would not simply follow Dalai Lama around.
However, keeping in mind the geopolitical concerns and recent military developments along the disputed India- China border, the police have taken Song’s activities seriously and are trying to get to the bottom of the matter. New Delhi is concerned.
The allegations of spying and posing a potential threat to Dalai Lama cannot be brushed aside easily as there is continued tension on the Line of Actual Control. The recent Tawang clashes on December 9 are a grim reminder of the extent of the threat to India- not just militarily but also attempts being made to damage its “soft power” owing to Dalai Lama’s presence on Indian soil. This has been a sore point with the Chinese Communist Party which treats him like a dissident.
Importantly, after the Tawang clashes, where the Chinese soldiers are said to have suffered a setback, Dalai Lama recently said there is no point to return to China and he prefers staying in India. China has already declared that it will appoint Dalai Lama’s successor, an issue that also puts the CCP on a sticky wicket because it does not recognise the Dalai Lama in the first place.
The local police is questioning Song on all possible angles after which a call will be taken by the government on her deportation.
Song holds a Chinese passport, issued to her in Hebei, the northern province of China, whose validity is till August 29, 2029.
“No recovery of any incriminating material has been made and nothing adverse has been found on her so far,” said an official.
A senior official in Bodh Gaya said Song’s overstay and being on the trail of Dalai Lama was enough to step up security. Tibetan functionaries are watching the developments closely but without panic as Indian agencies do their job.
The exiled spiritual leader, meanwhile, is unperturbed and plans to continue with his month-long stay in the Buddhist pilgrim town till he returns to Delhi towards January end , where he might address a gathering, before he returns to his residence at Mc Leodganj near Dharamsala.