Tibetan protestors may be stopped from marching to homeland

(dpa) - Tibetan protestors marching across India to their homeland as part of protests leading up to the Beijing Olympics have been asked to stay within Kangra district of India's northern Himachal Pradesh, where their government-in-exile is based, a police official said Tuesday.

About 100 Tibetans set off on the march from the town of Dharamshala, headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, on Monday on a route across India to Tibet. Dharamshala is also the Kangra district administration headquarters.

The march has been organized by five Tibetan groups who are not directly affiliated to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The organizers of the "peace march" say they want to use the occasion of the build-up to the Beijing Olympics to draw attention to the oppression in Tibet under Chinese rule.

The Kangra police has served a legal notice to the protestors requesting them to not move beyond the district's border on the ground that their actions may lead to breach of peace, senior police official Baldev Singh said.

Singh said the legal notice had been served under directions of the federal government in Delhi. "According to an agreement between the Indian government and the Tibetans they are not allowed to carry out certain types of agitations," Singh said.

"We have received a notice restraining us from moving beyond Kangra jurisdiction. But we are still marching. It will take us about two days to reach the district's border," protest organizer Tenzin Choeden said over telephone. "We are prepared for the possibility of being stopped.".

"Tibetan refugees have the right to return to Tibet, the land from where we come," Tibetan Youth Congress president Tsewang Rigzin said in a press release. "This is the first major obstacle we are facing but we remain committed to marching. We want to do nothing more than go back to our country and help to end the suffering of our brothers and sisters under brutal Chinese occupation," he said.

The organizers stressed it was a non-violent protest. Appealing to the Indian authorities and people to support the marchers, B Tsering, president of the Tibetan Women's Association, said the initiative was modeled on the nonviolent tradition of Mahatma Gandhi.

"It is a peace march. We will not stop them forcibly. Let's see what happens," Singh said. "We will hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation."

The protest march does not have a fixed route. The organizers said they planned to march to Delhi and then stop to decide their further course. They hoped to enter Tibet just before the Olympics begin in China on August 8.

The organizers had not sought the approval of the Dalai Lama, the supreme leader of Tibetans, or the government-in exile. The Dalai Lama's spokesman said earlier this week that the leader had always and consistently supported China's right to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

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