Chinese tense as men in khaki swamp Olympic torch relay routeApril 15th, 2008 - 10:21 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) A dramatic mock Olympic torch relay run by Tibetans here Tuesday afternoon stunned the authorities even as they promised a Chinese delegation that the real torch relay Thursday will be held under a tight security blanket and pass off peacefully. Fearing a repeat of the disturbances that marred the torch relay in London and Paris, commandos from paramilitary forces and thousands of policemen swarmed the two-kilometre route from the presidential palace to the World War I India Gate monument in the heart of the capital.
But the security personnel could not stop a group of Tibetans who breached the visibly tight cordon near Rashtrapati Bhavan to stage a mock Olympic torch relay - two days before D-Day.
Caught unawares, the police quickly doused the torch but not before the Tibetans got into a scuffle and a young woman was injured as her jersey caught fire. Twenty-seven Tibetans, young and old, were swiftly rounded up and taken to a police station.
An eight-member Chinese delegation led by China’s former envoy to India, Sun Yuxi, meanwhile called on Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta to take stock of the preparations. He voiced fears that the Tibetans could resort to guerrilla-type attacks on the torch relay.
“Some Chinese delegation members felt they (Tibetans) could use a hot air balloon to disrupt the torch relay. We assured them (that) no such incident would occur,” said a senior government official.
Later, China’s ambassador, Zhang Yan, called on Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal at the police headquarters to discuss security plans for Thursday.
India’s new Minister of State for Home Shakeel Ahmed said the government would make all efforts to secure the safe passage of the torch.
“It is our responsibility and an international commitment to have a successful torch relay but we do not want anyone’s democratic right to be violated,” he said.
India has also told the Chinese that as a democracy it can’t stop the Tibetans from holding protests but given repeated assurances that they would not be allowed to come close to the torch run.
The Tibetans, whose population in India is around 100,000, the largest outside Tibet, however appeared blissfully unconcerned.
The Tibetans had vowed earlier to organise a parallel torch relay from Rajghat, the Mahatma Gandhi memorial, to the Jantar Mantar observatory, a tourist landmark in the heart of Delhi.
“We will continue to change our plans. This will be a ‘Tom and Jerry’ show. The cat may have powerful fangs but the mouse will ultimately win,” boasted Tibetan leader Tensin Tsunde.
Anti-riot personnel have virtually taken over the Chinese embassy here since violence erupted in Tibet last month. Concertina wires have come up around the periphery of the complex.
Over 3,000 security personnel are camping on the lawns around the Rajpath avenue, turning the tree-lined area into a sea of khaki. Around 600 plainclothes policemen are expected to run with the torch.
Officials carried out a dry run along the route.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is still mum on the names of sportspersons and celebrities who will take part in the truncated relay. IOA president Suresh Kalmadi is expected to announce the names of the runners on the eve of the relay.
Initially, some 80 people were selected for the run but uncertainty over the route and security concerns made some of them to drop out. The number of school students expected to take part in the relay has been drastically cut.
Liu Jing Ming, vice president of the Beijing Organising Committee of the Beijing Olympics, is arriving in a chartered plane with a dozen Chinese college students to act as escorts for the Olympic flame when the torch comes here from Islamabad.
No decision has been taken on involving Chinese security personnel in the run, an official source said.
Beijing has proposed that 16 of its security personnel should guard the torch but New Delhi is not keen on the idea.