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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Fiery crusader plans to walk to Tibet

February 14, 2008

02/13/2008 -

Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh) : A fiery Tibetan crusader who has hogged the limelight in recent years by showing Tibetan freedom flags to visiting top Chinese leaders in India is all set for a bigger event this time.

Tenzin Tsundue has made his intentions clear to walk right into Tibet without any documents to bring the Tibetan struggle for independence from Chinese occupation back into international focus.

Tsundue's march into Tibet is to begin March 10 from this hill station - the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile led by Tibetan spiritual and temporal head the Dalai Lama. The town is nestled at the feet of the towering snow-clad Dhauladhar range of the mighty Himalayas.

Tsundue sports a red bandana on his head at all times and says he will remove it only when Tibet is free from Chinese occupation. He has termed his march to Tibet as being comparable to the famous salt march initiated by Mahatma Gandhi to break British laws in 1930.

The march will move, along with other Tibetan independence struggle volunteers, from here to New Delhi before moving onward to a border point with Tibet-China. The entry of Tsundue into Tibet is planned to coincide with the start of the Beijing Olympics beginning in China in August.

Getting into Tibet illegally is not new for Tsundue. He did it in 1997 and was promptly arrested by Chinese security forces.

"I went to Tibet in 1997 - after my graduation - and was arrested by the Chinese authorities. I was beaten up, interrogated, starved and finally thrown out of Tibet after keeping me in their jails for three months in Lhasa and Ngari," Tsundue said.

"I walked to Tibet, on my own, alone, across the Himalayan Mountains from Ladakh. Eleven years later, I am walking to Tibet again; this time too, without permission.

"I am returning home; why should I bother about papers from (the) Chinese colonial regime who have not only occupied Tibet, but is also running a military rule there; making our people in Tibet live in tyranny and brutal suppression day after day, everyday for 50," he said after his latest announcement to go to Tibet.

"I don't know how long the march will last and from where it will enter Tibet. But we are determined to complete it," Tsundue told IANS.

Several Tibetan organisations like Tsundue's Friends of Tibet, Students for Free Tibet, Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association and Gu-Chu-Sum Movement (an association of former Tibetan political prisoners living here in exile) are planning various activities this year to draw maximum international media attention in a year when China hosts the biggest sporting event - the Olympics - for the first time.

Apart from his 1997 walk, Tsundue, born to Tibetan refugee parents in India, waved the flag of independent Tibet at Mumbai and Bangalore before the visiting Chinese prime minister and president in January 2002 and April 2005.

His action, for which he hid himself at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore for two days before coming out from a rooftop to fly the Tibetan flag at the venue where the Chinese president was present, embarrassed the Indian and Chinese authorities.

Now his movements within India are closely watched by security agencies. But Tsundue is not worried.

"Of course, the Indian police will do their duty; the Chinese army at the Tibet border would be overtly enthusiastic. Since we are leading a peaceful march, with absolute commitment to non-violence, I do not think anyone - either from Indian authorities or Chinese - would impose themselves on us.

"Inspired by Gandhi's Salt March, even if they did try to stop us, we are not stopping. For how many days can they jail us for just walking peacefully? And why should the Indian government stop Tibetan refugees voluntarily returning home on foot?" Tsundue said.
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