India bars Tibetan protest march

Other News Materials 11 March 2008 06:00 (UTC +04:00)

Police blocked hundreds of Tibetan exiles Monday from leaving an area near this northern Indian city at the start of a planned six-month march to Tibet to protest China hosting the Summer Olympics. ( AP )

The march got under way on the anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule that forced the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, into exile in 1959. Dharmsala is the seat of the Tibetan government in exile.

A recommendation by the Indian government led to the order banning the marchers from leaving the area outside Dharmsala where they stopped for the night, local police chief Atul Fulzele said.

Tenzin Tsundue, one of the march leaders, said the Tibetan exiles have not decided whether to defy the ban.

In Tibet, Radio Free Asia reported that as many as 300 monks marched five miles from a monastery outside the capital Lhasa to the city's center on the 49th anniversary of the uprising.

The monks were demanding the release of monks detained last October when the Dalai Lama was given a Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, an honor that infuriated the Chinese government.

Authorities detained between 50 and 60 monks, according to the private broadcaster funded by the U.S. Congress.

Protesters also rallied in New Delhi and in Katmandu, Nepal, where 10 activists were detained after hundreds clashed with police.

The India-to-Tibet march was to be one of several protests around the world before the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games, Tibetan exile groups said.

The exile groups say China is attempting to stamp out Tibetan Buddhist culture and increase the government's presence in Tibet. Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically part of China.

The local police chief, Fulzele, said the march goes against an agreement between New Delhi and the Tibetan government in exile.

None of the groups taking part in the march are affiliated with the government in exile; neither the Dalai Lama nor the government has issued an official statement on the march.

India, which had been sympathetic to the Tibetans' cause, has clamped down on public protests in recent years, fearing they could embarrass Beijing and damage relations between the two Asian giants.

The Dalai Lama, speaking in Dharmsala, accused China of "unimaginable and gross violations of human rights" in the Himalayan region.

The Dalai Lama said that for nearly six decades Tibetans "have had to live in a state of constant fear, intimidation and suspicion under Chinese repression."

"In Tibet, repression continues to increase with numerous, unimaginable and gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and the politicization of religious issues," he said.

In New Delhi, more than a 1,000 protesters marched and some wrapped themselves in bandages covered with fake blood and wore cutouts of the Olympic rings around their necks.

The bandages were meant to show "that the IOC (International Olympic Association) has done a great injustice by giving the permission the right to China to hold the Olympics," said Jigme Yeshi, a member of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Police fired tear gas and beat up hundreds of Tibetans who threw bricks and stones at police in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, officials said.

At least 10 protesters were detained near Boudhanath, one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in Nepal, said a police official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.