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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?"

Centre curbs Dalai Lama, tells media to leave Tawang

November 13, 2009

Keshav Pradhan & Prabin Kalita
November 12, 2009

TAWANG/BOMDI LA (Arunachal Pradesh) -- Although
the government maintained that it would not
interfere with the high-profile Dalai Lama visit
to Arunachal Pradesh, state officials on
Wednesday asked the Tibetan leader to amend his
programme and ordered reporters covering his trip to leave Tawang.

On the eve of the Dalai Lama's departure for
Dirang and Bomdi La in West Kameng, state
officials asked him to convert a public address,
which was scheduled to take place in Tawang, into
a religious discourse. "Keeping the sensitivity
of the area, we've advised His Holiness to amend
his programme," said a senior official. The
direction came a day after Beijing reiterated its
objection to Dalai's visit to the area that China claims as its own.

Around the same time on Wednesday, Arunachal
officials flatly rejected extension requests of
inner line permits (ILPs) for reporters,
including TOI's, who had travelled to the border
area to cover the two-day trip to West Kameng
district. "We've got instructions not to extend
ILPs beyond the Dalai's Lama's stay in Tawang," said one official.

ILPs are mandatory for non-state residents who
want to visit Arunachal. "Our officers
reprimanded us for allowing the media to get
close to the Dalai Lama. They said journalists
were asking all sorts of questions about China,"
said a paramilitary officer as he stopped TOI
correspondents at the Yid-Gha-Choezin Monastery
in Tawang from covering the Dalai's visit.

On Tuesday, it was later learnt, the government
had cancelled the Dalai Lama's visit to a
monastery in the heart of Tawang. Organisers of
his visit also withdrew volunteers of the
India-Tibet Friendship Society. On Sunday, the
first day of the visit, these volunteers had
miniature Indian and Tibetan flags on their T-shirts.

Despite the restrictions imposed in Arunachal
Pradesh, the Dalai Lama continued to draw
thousands of followers. For the fourth
consecutive day, Tawang remained closed for about
six hours as almost all its residents went to
attend the Tibetan leader's discourse at the
Yid-Gha-Choezin Monastery. He was also scheduled
to visit the Urgelling Monastery on the outskirts
of Tawang, where the sixth Dalai Lama was born in
the 17th century. The present Dalai Lama is 14th
in the lineage that began over 650 years ago.

Despite the chilly weather, unprecedented
enthusiasm and joy was seen along the 186-km
stretch from Tawang to Bomdi La, the route the
Dalai Lama had taken during his sensational
flight from Tibet in 1959. All shops, including
eating houses, were closed. Local Buddhists
draped the road with thousands of five-colour
religious flags and erected welcome arches with
sacred motifs at numerous places.

Till evening, the Dalai Lama's followers were
seen going to Dirang and Bomdi La to listen to
his discourses over the next two days. "We are
all thrilled to find god's reincarnation among
us," said Pema Thondup, a former Assam Rifles
jawan from Themang, as he walked to the venue of
the Dalai Lama's discourse at Dirang.
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