Indian police have arrested about 100 Tibetan exiles who set out, earlier this week, on a protest march from India to their homeland. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the march is part of a global campaign mounted by Tibetan activists ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, to highlight their struggle to free Tibet from Chinese rule.
The Tibetan activists had traveled some 50 kilometers on their planned trek to Tibet when police took them away in vans, early Thursday, in Dehra town in Himachal Pradesh state.
Tibetan Youth Congress President Tsewang Rigzin says stopping the protest march, just days after it started out, is a setback.
"We are very disappointed that the Indian police came and stopped our marchers this morning at 6.40 a.m.," Rigzin said. "When the police came and stopped us, all the marchers sat down on the streets and they did not move and they were doing prayers and the police came out and they forcibly took all the marchers and loaded them on to the bus."
Indian police had banned the march soon after it began, Monday. The ban was widely expected. New Delhi has given shelter to tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees, but it does not allow them to mount anti-Chinese public protests.
Rigzin, who is one of the organizers of the march, says it is a non-violent protest and should be allowed to go on.
"We have said it, all, along, that our march to Tibet is completely non-violent? We have not caused any problems to anyone along the way, whatsoever. We are just a bunch of peaceful monks and nuns, along with some lay people. We are just marching along the road and we are not committing any crime. So, the march should go on," Rigzin said.
Tibetan activists say the detention of the marchers is the first major obstacle to their protest. They have vowed to find a way to reach Lhasa in Tibet within six months.
The march is one of several protests organized by Tibetan exile groups, ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in August, to draw attention to their struggle to free their homeland from what they call "illegal Chinese occupation."
China says has controlled Tibet since 1951 and says it is an integral part of its territory. Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and Tibetan refugees accuse the Chinese of widespread human rights violations in the region.