Tibetan protestors stage mock torch relay in Delhi

Other News Materials 15 April 2008 16:56 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - A group of Tibetan protestors broke a tight security cordon in the vicinity of the presidential palace in the Indian capital on Tuesday to stage a mock Olympic torch relay along the route of the official run scheduled for Thursday.

"We hijacked the venue of the Olympic torch relay as a mark of protest against China's human rights violations in Tibet," said Kanchok Yangphoel of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Wearing yellow T-shirts with messages such as "Stop the killings in Tibet," "No Olympics till Tibet is free", a group of about 20 Tibetans ran with a torch for about a kilometre, till the police stopped them. "Fifty-two of our activists have been detained," Yangphoel said.

The entire drama, lasting for all of 15 minutes, is an indication that the Tibetan refugees in India are determined to raise the pitch of their protests to draw international attention as the Olympic torch relay day nears.

The Delhi Police, meanwhile, was busy drawing up details of the security arrangements for the relay scheduled for Thursday afternoon. "We will be able to give details of the time of the relay and security arrangements tomorrow," said Rajan Bhagat, police public relations official.

The route of the torch has already been shortened from the originally planned nine kilometres to about 2.5 kilometres from the presidential palace to India Gate aong the capital's most majestic road, the Rajpath, a high security zone.

About 15,000 policemen are expected to be deployed to protect the torch route and all arterial roads leading to the venue are likely to be blocked, NDTV television channel reported.

The torch is scheduled to arrive in Delhi from Islamabad on Thursday, a few hours before the relay, and then fly on to Bangkok for the next leg.

Besides the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Solidarity Committee, a forum of refugee organizations, is also planning demonstrations on Thursday.

"We plan to hold a parallel torch relay from near the Gandhi memorial at Rajghat to the jantar Mantar," said organizer Youdon Aukatsang, a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile.

"We are waiting for the police to give us permission. About 50 runners will take part and carry the 'Torch for Tibet' as we don't want to disrupt traffic. The rest of our supporters will line the route and see them off," she said. "We expect more than 5000 people to turn out," Aukatsang added.

"Our protests are to draw the attention of the world to the Chinese atrocities in Tibet," she said.

More than 100,000 Tibetan refugees live in India along with the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his government-in exile. The Dalai Lama, who has repeatedly said that he is not opposed to the Olympics being held in Beijing, is currently on a lecture tour in the United States.