By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, December 9: 100 Tibetan core marchers are ready to take “Return March to Tibet” starting Monday morning in an effort to reach Tibet’s border from India and finally enter Tibet to protest China’s illegal occupation of their once independent Himalayan nation.
The march will start following a flag-off ceremony at the Main Tibetan Temple immediately after an official ceremony of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile commemorating the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising, the organising committee of the march announced at a press conference here today.
Hundreds of Tibetans and non-Tibetans are expected to join the core marchers as they leave Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
The Return March to Tibet is aimed at reinvigorating the Tibetan freedom movement around the world and to highlight the plight of Tibetan people as China prepares to host the 2008 Games in August.
“We are taking the march to Tibet because of serious situation inside Tibet and to show that Tibetans are not happy under China. We will take the Olympics opportunity to tell the world that Tibet belongs to Tibetans and China should be out of Tibet,” Tsewang Rigzin, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress said here at the press conference.
“Our determination to take this protest march finds its strength from the aspirations and determination of oppressed Tibetans inside Tibet,” Mrs B Tsering, President of the Tibetan Women’s Association said.
“They have always shown constant resistance against China’s rule over Tibet seeking restoration of Tibetan freedom and return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet”.
“We must unite with them to challenge China’s illegal occupation of Tibet and oppression of Tibetans inside Tibet,” Mrs Tsering said. “So far, China is not ready to show sincere interest to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s call for the peaceful resolution of Tibet issue,” she added.
Responding to media question regarding the Indian Government’s reaction to the planned march, TYC president said, “We have not heard from the Indian Government officially, so far”.
“We are Tibetan refugees, and as refugees we have our right to go back to our country,” Mr Tsewang said sticking to a hope that Indian Government would not stop them from going.
“We are asking all over core marchers to be non-violent, whatsoever,” Mr Tsewang said saying intensive training workshops on non-violent direct action were imparted to the core marchers.
One of the youngest core marchers to depart from Dharamsala on Monday morning is a 21-year old Tenzin Pema from Tibetan Children’s Village School. Pema has just completed her class 11, but says she has no regret to be part of the 6-month protest march even if it means missing her regular studies.
Pema insists it was her personal decision.
“I feel more important for Tibetan freedom at the moment. If anything goes wrong, I can still continue my study,” Pema told Phayul.com.
“Gaining Tibetan independence through peace and to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet are my dreams,” said Pema.
Another core marcher is Gedun Gyatso, a 27-year old monk from Sera Monastery in South India. Gedun who had spent three years in Chinese prison for his politically expressive protest in Tibet, says he would “continue his struggle for Tibet’s independence and for the suppressed Tibetan people inside Tibet”.
Gedun was only 16 when he was arrested by Chinese police in 1997 for taking part in a protest demonstration in Chamdo in Tibet’s Kham Province where he displayed Tibetan National Flag and, called for Tibet’s independence and the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet.
“As Tibetans, it our prime duty to take part in the moment,” he says.
The organisers refrained from revealing the names of the core marchers and route that they would take to reach Tibet’s border.