By Tenzin Choephel
Photo by Tenzin Choephel
Kathmandu, April 19 - It has been 40 days of regular Tibetan protests in Kathmandu since March 10. As a Tibetan journalist and Human Rights activist I did my duty and never interfered, obstructed or came in the way of the police. Like other days, I was present yesterday at Hattisar Street to cover the Tibetan protest in front of the Chinese Consulate with fellow Tibetan, Nepalese and Foreign journalists. The Free Tibet activists arrived at 2.45 pm in three public micro buses and a relatively larger bus. Around 3.05 pm three vans and another bus carrying more protestors came from Kamal Pokhari. After the initial altercation with the police while they were trying to contain the Tibetans, the latter broke free and started their anti-China demonstrations. Placards, banners and graphic pictures of those who had died at the Chinese hands in the recent Tibet uprising were raised in the air. The activists carried the Tibetan National Flag and demanded that China end the brutal killings in Tibet and UN send a fact finding delegation inside the Tibet.
Within minutes police started arresting the protestors and as always Tibetans were trying to avoid the grabbing hands of the police and shielding themselves from the blows. The Nepalese police showed no mercy and some of them started beating the unarmed advocates of human rights.
Even as commanding officers ordered their juniors not to physically assault the Tibetans, they remained unmoved and continued their attack on men, women and youngsters alike. The chaos went on for some 15 minutes before Tibetans were rounded up into waiting buses and driven away. By 3.40 pm the site was cleared and bore no signs of a demonstration ever having occurred there just minutes earlier.
Two Tibetan journalists - Tenzin Choephel of Phayul.com (c) and Thupten Sanggyal of Radio Free Asia (on far back seat) - were arbitrarily arrested and taken in police van in Kathmandu on Friday, April 18, 2008. They were arrested in front of the visa-issuance section of the Chinese Embassy in Hattisar. No reasons were cited for their arrest, although they were later released. Police also arrested and detained over 100 Tibetans taking part in peaceful demonstration from the same site. (Photo by Lhubum - RFA / Phayul.com)
Just as we (Tibetan journalists including Lumbum and Thupten from RFA, three others and I) paused to drink water in front of the Corporate Office of the Nepal SBI Bank, an Inspector ordered his juniors to arrest Lumbum, Thupten and me. Though Lumbum was let go, Thupten and I were manhandled with the police pulling and leading us away. Although we did not resist arrest, we explained that we were journalists and asked why we were being taken away like petty thieves.
We were driven to the nearby Kamal Pokhari Police Station and detained there. In all the while, they could not come up with a valid reason behind our arrest. They asked for our press ID cards which we duly submitted. Around 4.20 pm we were taken to the Metropolitan Police Station, Lainchaur where an Inspector bearing two stars said , "Don't worry you will stay here till evening and soon be released, it might be because of many Tibetan journalists' presence that more Tibetan protestors are coming to demonstrate". We were then served refreshments and two police officers were sent to get our bikes from where we were picked up.
After a half an hour's wait, a lady Inspector in charge of the station came and ordered her junior to immediately release us. When asked why we were arrested in the first place she replied, "I don't know the reason, I was on duty. When I asked my superior why two journalists were kept at my station, he told me to immediately release you". She further told us to go to the Kama Pokhari Police Station and ask the charges against us.
I did not understand why we among those from AFP, AP, Reuters, EP, Kantipur and other foreign journalists who are also always present during such demonstrations were taken into custody. No one at the Kamal Pokhari Police Station could provide a substantial reason for our arrest either. I contacted AFP and was told that an officer termed our arrest as a case of 'mistaken identity'. I don't understand why they made a mistake in identifying us when we clearly showed our press ID to the Duty Inspector and said we were journalists from the start. I was arrested for the first time in my life and detained over 2 hours for no fault of mine. A fellow journalist told me he had overheard someone ordering our (Tibetan reporters) arrest on the police radio and another officer confirming that he knew exactly who to arrest during the afternoon demonstration near the Chinese Embassy.
Being born a Tibetan refugee is a sad situation but getting bullied by people in a free country for no reason is a joke to democracy and I will fight for my right to write and express what I see in front of me.
Today a total of 117 Tibetans including Thubten and I were arrested. We were released at 6 pm and the others were released around 9.30 pm. 38 people were detained at Kamal Pokhari, 37 at Anamnagar, 2 at Gausala Police Station and 38 at MAPF Barrack 2. Four people were injured, two women taken to Om Hospital, a nun to a hospital somewhere in Anamnagar and another escorted to a hospital in Balaju. They all returned home after receiving medical attention.