Arrested Tibetan marchers stage hunger strike as state-run BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.) phone and internet service in McLeod remains badly disrupted
By Phurbu Thinley
Tibetan activists, marching to Tibet to oppose China’s occupation of their country, camp at the end of their third day walk on Thursday, March 12, 2008. The marchers resumed their march early Thursday morning before they were arrested by Indian police some 40 minutes later. (Photo by Tenzin Dasel / Phyul.com)
Dharamsala, March 13: 100 Tibetan marchers, who have been stopped and forcibly taken away by Indian police to local custody early this morning, have started indefinite hunger strike in defiance to the arrest.
The arrested Tibetan marchers said they have launched indefinite hunger-strike by refusing to eat food offered to them.
The activists have barely walked around 40 minutes before they were arrested early Thursday morning around 6:30am on the third day of their march.
An activist coordinating the march and who managed to avoid police arrest said around 100 police have been waiting them at a junction some 3kms from reaching Dehra, an important town 25km short of actually crossing the Kangra district.
“All the 100 core Tibetan marchers of the “Return March to Tibet” have been arrested and are currently held at a nearby Jawala Mukhi local police station,” one activist at the scene told Phayul.com over the phone.
The activists were earlier on Monday issued restraint order by Indian Government stopping them from going beyond the local administrative district.
High-profile Tibetan activist Tenzin Tsundue speaks to Tibetan media on the third day of the march on Wednesday. Tsundue was among the first to be arrested by police on Thursday morning. (Photo by Tenzin Dasel / Phayul.com)
The marchers were 55kms from Dharamsala, the home of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile from where they began their homeward walk on Monday, at the time of the arrest this morning.
“The activists staged sit-in protest before they were picked up by police and put into vans,” one of the organizing committee members who managed to avoid police arrest told Phayul.com minutes after the police action.
However, the activist said, “The police did not resort to any beatings due to nonviolent nature of the march. They forcibly picked up the activists when the marchers staged sit-in protest the moment they knew police was there to arrest them”.
Some leaders representing the five organizations initiating the march and several foreigners, who have been taking solidarity march with the Tibetans from the day one of the walk, have also been arrested. Foreign Tibet activists were later released.
One hundred Tibetans began taking a return march to Tibet on March 10, on the 49th anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising, to challenge China’s illegal occupation of Tibet ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The marchers were also seeking unconditional return of the Tibetan leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to Tibet, among other demands.
The activists planned to take six-month’s march to reach Tibet’s border before Olympics would begin in Beijing in August this year.
The activists say India as a democratic country has not done the right thing to stop the Tibetan nonviolent freedom march.
Meanwhile, since late Wednesday night, the state-run BSNL landline phone connection and internet services to Mcleod Ganj town, where the organizations initiating Tibetan National Uprising Movement
against China’s occupation of Tibet are based, have been cut off; and many activists doubt it is an anticipatory act by authorities.
The organizations complain their regular online updates and works have been badly derailed due to the disruption of connection.
Mr Rajesh, a staff from BSNL, however, said the view is “not true”. “BSNL is a prestigious service and there is no such intention of intentionally interrupting the service,” he said, adding “there are individual miscreants who steal the underground cable or cut them off to disrupt the service”.
Calls to reach Mr Sharma, Sub Division Officer of BSNL in charge of McLoed area, rang unanswered.