Tibetans protest as Wen begins India visit

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NEW DELHI - Hundreds of young and elderly Tibetans protested noisily here Wednesday demanding freedom for Tibet as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo arrived on a three-day visit to India. The Tibetans will be staging a sit-in near the Jantar Mantar monument until Wen leaves.

Carrying hand-written placards and waving yellow-red-blue Tibetan flags, the Tibetans first gathered in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial Rajghat before marching to Jantar Mantar in the heart of the city. From there they went to the nearby Parliament Street police station and marched back.

“Free Tibet Wen, Free Tibet Now” was one of the placards carried by the protesters, who kept a steady chant of slogans in Hindi and English.

The protesters also raised slogans against Wen, who is to hold talks with Indian leaders before heading to Pakistan.

Phuntsok, a 26-year-old Tibetan who lives in Dharamsala but came to Delhi for the protest, said: No one wants to leave their homeland, but we did because of the circumstances. I was only six when I left Tibet and came to India on foot.

It took me and my cousins three months to reach here. I have grown up here but I long to go back. Its been 20 years that I have seen my mother. She and my younger brother are still there. I am trying to go to Tibet and meet them next year, Phuntsok told IANS.

Tsering Lhamo, a 33-year-old who lives in the Majnu Ka Tila Tibetan settlement in north Delhi, said she has been born and brought up in India and had not seen Tibet. Yet she hopes to see a free Tibet one day.

Tibet is our land. I have never been there but my heart cries each time I hear of human rights violations taking place there. Tibet wants freedom and China should heed to it, Lhamo said.

Ishi Chozom, a 70-year-old, dressed in the traditional Tibetan dress and holding prayer beads, told IANS: It’s been 50 years that I have come to India, 50 years since I left my home where my brothers were killed, yet I pine to go back there. I don’t know if I will ever see a free Tibet but I am hopeful.

Joining the protestors with the passion and fervour of the young, Chozom added: If we don’t get peace, China wouldn’t.

The Tibetans have vowed to stage demonstrations outside the Chinese embassy as well but police have imposed prohibitory orders in the area to block the gathering of five or more people.

Six Tibetans also staged a demonstration outside Taj Palace Hotel in south Delhi, shouting slogans against Wen and China.

Before being detained and taken away by police, protestor Tenzin Norsang said: Tibet does not belong to Wen and China should vacate it.”

A few Tibetan NGOs like Gu-Chu-Sum, an organisation of political prisoners, Tibetan Women’s Association, Students for Free Tibet and the National Democratic Party of Tibet, organised a panel discussion on ‘Re-think India Sino-Tibet Policies’ at the India Habitat Centre Wednesday.

India is home to the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and about 100,000 Tibetan exiles. Many of them fled to India with the Dalai Lama in 1959 after the failure of an anti-Communist uprising.

The Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile is based in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala. It is not recognised by any country.

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