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India limits media on contentious Dalai Lama trip

November 11, 2009

The Associated Press
November 9, 2009

TAWANG, India -- Indian officials clamped down
Monday on journalists covering the Dalai Lama's
trip to a disputed border area in an apparent
effort to minimize tensions with neighboring China.

China has protested the Tibetan spiritual
leader's weeklong visit to the northeastern state
of Arunachal Pradesh that began Sunday after
months of rising friction between India and China.

The Dalai Lama was holding prayer meetings and
teaching sessions with adherents in the Himalayan
town of Tawang, near the frontier with Chinese-controlled Tibet.

India refused to allow foreign journalists to
travel to Tawang to cover the trip and tried to
keep local reporters away from the Dalai Lama on Sunday.

As the Dalai Lama inaugurated a hospital wing in
Tawang on Monday, Leki Phuntso, a media official
with the state government, told waiting reporters
they were "requested" not to ask any questions.

China had demanded India call off the trip, but
India said the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile
here since 1959, was an honored guest and free to
visit any part of the country.

On the first day of his visit Sunday, the Tibetan
leader told reporters who managed to get near him
that Beijing's claims that his visit was anti-China were "baseless."

On Monday, however, he was surrounded by a tight
security cordon that made asking questions impossible.

Vishnu Prakash, the External Affairs Ministry
spokesman, did not immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail for comment.

After spending the first day of his visit at the
Tawang monastery, the Dalai Lama on Monday began
addressing a series of public teaching sessions
from a tiny Buddhist temple overlooking a vast,
dusty playground that has been converted into an
arena of sorts to accommodate the more than 25,000 expected pilgrims.

The area was packed with pilgrims from across
India, hundreds who had trekked for days from
neighboring Bhutan and a handful of Westerners.

"I feel absolutely honored to be here," said
Belize Lane, a 20-year-old student from San
Francisco, California. "It's a life changing moment."
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