Join our Mailing List

"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Hundreds arrested as Olympic torch makes Indian passage

April 20, 2008

NEW DELHI April 17, 2008 (AFP) — Hundreds of Tibetan demonstrators were
arrested in India and neighbouring Nepal Thursday as thousands of police
and soldiers defended the Beijing Olympic torch on a suffocating run
through New Delhi.

The heart of the Indian capital was sealed off for the most sensitive
leg of the protest-hit global relay to date, with security personnel far
outnumbering the schoolboys and the other few select onlookers allowed
to watch.

India is home to 100,000 Tibetan refugees, including the Dalai Lama and
radical youth groups, and authorities wanted to ensure that chaotic
protests like those seen in Paris and London did not mar the event.

The scaled-back 2.3-kilometre (1.5-mile) relay lasted little more than
30 minutes, and there were no disruptions to the event itself.

Relay participants were tightly marshalled by tracksuited Chinese
security guards, and allowed to run only a few metres each.

An estimated 16,000 police, soldiers and even elite commandos were
deployed to throw up a huge security cordon around the central
thoroughfare between the presidential palace and India Gate, two of New
Delhi's main landmarks.

"We have around 170 to 180 people in custody," a senior police official
told AFP after a day marked by a string of protests and shrouded in a
fortress-like atmosphere featuring tracker dogs, bomb disposal units and
metal detectors.

The Tibetan Youth Congress, a radical activist group that spearheaded
attempts to disrupt the event, said as many as 530 of its supporters had
been arrested in the past few days.

Among those arrested were a group of around 70 protesters who tried to
make a run for the area where the torch relay began, the group said.

Another 46 Tibetans were arrested in India's financial capital Mumbai as
they tried to storm the Chinese consulate, police said.

In neighbouring Nepal, police said they had detained more that 500
Tibetan refugees as they protested outside the Chinese embassy, the most
rounded up there on one day since demonstrations began last month.

The round-the-world torch relay has been dogged by protests over China's
military crackdown in Tibet and its human rights record -- overshadowing
China's prestige in hosting the world's biggest sporting event.

In India, authorities said they were even worried that Tibetan activists
might set themselves on fire in front of TV cameras. Police said they
had been equipped with blankets and water, but no self-immolations were

Several thousand Tibetan protesters did, however, stage a rival torch
relay, symbolically setting off from the mausoleum of Mahatma Gandhi,
the champion of India's non-violent independence movement.

Hundreds of Indian Buddhists and Tibetan refugees also demonstrated in
the Himalayan region of Ladakh.

Seventy Indian sports figures, entertainers and others took part in the
official torch run, including Bollywood actors, tennis player Leander
Paes and officials from China's embassy in New Delhi.

A few others had pulled out of the run, including Kiran Bedi, India's
first woman police officer, and India's football captain Bhaichung
Bhutia, a Buddhist who said he wanted to show "solidarity" with Tibetans.

Some here have also been irked by the presence of Chinese security
guards employed in India to guard the flame. Many here still hold bitter
memories of a 1962 border war with its giant northern neighbour.

Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan defended his decision to take part.

"I am not a great supporter of China's politics. I am sympathetic to
what is happening in Tibet," the star told reporters. "But at the same
time I am here as a supporter of the Olympics."

India has been home to the Dalai Lama since he fled Tibet after a failed
1959 uprising against Chinese rule in his homeland.

Jiang Xiaoyu, the vice-president of the Beijing Olympic organising
committee, thanked India for its organisational skills.

"We have been deeply impressed by the beauty of Delhi and the
arrangements and the Indian people's passion for the Olympic flame," he
said after the relay.

Suresh Kalmadi, head of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), said the
relay was a "great occasion."

The flame was scheduled to leave for Bangkok later Thursday, IOA
officials said.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank