Tibetans end Dharamsala-Delhi march - and begin protest plans

April 9th, 2008 - 8:09 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) Declaring that they would somehow bypass security and demonstrate against the Beijing Olympics torch relay in the Indian capital, 200 Tibetans Wednesday ended their month long march from Dharamsala to Delhi. The gurdwara near northeast Delhi’s Majnu ka Tilla, where the Tibetan refugee colony is, wore a different look with the marchers setting up camp. Monks, dressed in their maroon robes, dotted the entire place, crowded with rucksacks, sleeping mats and photographs of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetans.

The ‘March to Tibet’, which saw 30 women among the 200 protestors took one month to complete the journey from Dharamsala - the Himalayan abode for the Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile - to New Delhi.

Lobsang Yeshi, coordinator of the march, an initiative of Tibetan NGOs, said they would take rest for four days before their “next plan of action”.

“We haven’t planned anything as yet. We will take rest for the next four days. By then more Tibetan supporters from across India will reach Delhi,” Yeshi told IANS.

“The security for the Beijing Olympics torch relay on April 17 here is tight. But we Tibetans have a way out of everything and breaching security. We will come up with some idea,” he said, as a tiny Tibetan flag remained propped up amongst the bags strewn around the floors of the gurdwara.

Of the approximately 100,000 Tibetans living in exile in India, more than 5,000 live in Delhi. For the protest march against the Olympic torch relay, around 6,000 Tibetans from all over the country are expected to come to the capital.

Since India has the highest number of Tibetans outside Tibet, the protest here is expected to be bigger than London or Paris where anti-China protestors were able to reach close to the torchbearers.

The Olympic torch is heading from Islamabad to New Delhi April 17 and will stay in the country for two days before moving on to Bangkok.

“We are not against the Olympics. We love the Olympics; we love sports and games. What we are against is the international credential to a colonial power like China. The dousing of the flame of the torch in Paris or whatever has been happening elsewhere is therefore good news for us,” said Woeser Sherab, one of the marchers.

“These protests across the world just mean that we are not alone. People are out there supporting our cause,” he added.

Akhum La, one of the women protestors, said the march was not easy, but the cause had made every other trouble recede.

“Three days into the march from Dharamsala, and we were stopped by Indian officials and we had to start the journey with a second batch of people. It’s a difficult journey, and it doesn’t end here. Through this march we are trying to raise awareness for our cause and tell Indians that we need their support,” she said.

“Just imagine, despite living in India for 50 years, in places like Haryana and Punjab, people didn’t know who the Dalai Lama was, what Tibet is… you have to understand that it’s our identity that we are seeking,” said Akhum La, dressed in a black and white striped robe and sitting on the floor.

“Having said that, I must say that overall we have got ample support from the people here. The priests in the temples and the gurdwaras especially have been very kind to us. No matter where we went they gave us shelter. They also had a great deal of knowledge about the Dalai Lama,” she added.

Although emotions ran high, the marchers took it easy as they roamed around the narrow alleys of Majnu ka Tilla, shopping, eating and sharing a laugh.

“We are fighting for free Tibet, so we have let the marchers free!” laughed Yeshi.

“We are on a march, that doesn’t stop us from having some fun, smiling and laughing. Tibetans are peace loving people, you know,” he said.

After some thought, he added: “However, I want to say this - please relieve us from the expectations of a community which is non-violent in nature. Buddhism preaches non-violence, but which religion doesn’t?

“Isn’t it human to shout and protest if your country is suppressed for decades, despite attempts of peaceful dialogue? We are just humans, not Buddha.”

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