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Protest March by Tibetan Exiles Stopped in Northern India

May 28, 2008

The Associated Press
May 26, 2008

LUCKNOW, India -- More than 300 Tibetan exiles have been stopped by authorities in northern India from marching to Tibet, an official said Monday.

The demonstrators, including Buddhist monks and nuns carrying pictures of the Dalai Lama and "Free Tibet" banners, planned to arrive in their homeland to coincide with the Beijing Olympics Games.

"They've been stopped and we are trying to persuade them to return to Dharmsala. They will not be allowed to march ahead," said Amit Chandola, a senior Uttarakhand state official.

The marchers began their journey on March 10 in the Indian city of Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, but were stopped by Indian authorities.

Authorities fear the protest march would embarrass China, with whom New Delhi is improving economic ties despite a lingering border dispute.

Indian police detained a group of the marchers for two weeks. The protesters restarted their walk March 15, and since then Indian officials have allowed them to continue, although local police have usually accompanied them.

On Saturday, authorities in Uttarakhand state stopped the marchers and detained 17 of them, said Tenzin Choedon, a spokeswoman for Students for a Free Tibet, one of the groups organizing the march.

Two other marchers were detained a day earlier. All the detained marchers were released Monday, Chandola said.

Choedon said the marchers were determined to continue their walk to Tibet.

"They are determined to carry on with this nonviolent direct action," Choedon told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Nainital, one of the main towns of Uttarakhand.

India has generally allowed the Tibetan exiles to protest peacefully, but as anti-China protests gathered momentum before the Beijing Olympics, the government has said that it would not tolerate actions that embarrassed China.

India is home to the world's largest Tibetan exile community, with more than 100,000 exiles.

(Source: Hasni Essa, Peace and Pluralism)
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