Freedom bracelets are handmade knotted strings of black and white threads called ‘Chu-mig Gu-drill’ in Tibetan, meaning braided nine water eyes. For a long time, prisoners at Drapchi and Sangyib prisons have been making this and these have come to symbolize Tibet’s struggle for freedom and independence.
Black and white threads symbolize light and darkness. The two colors symbolize the two protector deities of Tibet. Tibetans also believe that wearing a bracelet with the nine “eyes” on one’s wrist, where the essential pulse is felt, likewise protects against nervous disorders.
In 1988, Tibetan political prisoners, led by Y.D. Tsering began using bracelets with nine eyes as a protest against Chinese brutality in Tibet. It was a silent protest against brutalities in Tibet and a sign of solidarity between them.
Unaware of the symbol, the jailers too started to use these bracelets, perhaps seeing it as an eccentric but inoffensive native custom. Yet in realizing its meaning, the prison authorities prohibited it immediately.