By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, February 7: After months of painstaking preparations, series of grassroot level meetings and non-violent direct action trainings, exiled Tibetans are all set to take on their “return march to Tibet” to highlight and challenge China’s illegal occupation of their long departed homeland.
According to the organisers, which include five leading Tibetan non-governmental organizations based in India, “100 core marchers” will depart from Dharamsala, the exile hometown of the Dalai Lama and seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, following a brief flag off ceremony in the Main Tibetan Temple (Tsuglag Khang).
“In addition to 100 core marchers who are planning to return to Tibet, there will be thousands of support marchers, including Tibetans, Indians and Westerners, will participate in the march till Lower Dharamshala to show their support and solidarity,” according to the march's organising Committee.
The protest march will be officially launched on March 10th immediately following the official function of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile commemorating the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day.
At a press conference on February 17, the organisers said they would not be taking official permission for the protest march saying it would be a return walk to their own country.
The group said they were hopeful that “India will not stop them from going to Tibet”. A similar march from India to Tibet in the past was forcefully halted on the way by Indian police following authorities’ order.
During the press conference, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress Mr Tsewang Rigzin said by taking the return march, Tibetans in exile wanted to test Chinese authorities’ past claims that Tibetans were welcome to return home.
The march will be one of a series of worldwide protests before the August 8-24 Beijing Games. The organising groups say such protests are necessary to expose China's continued attempts to subvert Tibetan Buddhist culture and strengthen its hold on their once independent country.
The Organising Committee of the march will hold a formal press conference this Sunday, March 9, in McLeod Ganj.