DHARAMSHALA, January 24: Hundreds of Tibetans carried out day-long protests and candle light vigils in Ngaba yesterday calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and demanding freedom in Tibet.
Scores of Tibetans suffered indiscriminate beatings and arrests.
Yesterday’s protests had greater significance as for many Tibetans in the region, January 23 was the first day of the new year according to the lunar calendar.
Tibetans in the beleaguered Ngaba region, which has witnessed 11 instances of self-immolations since March 2011, had been calling for a boycott of the new year celebrations.
According to sources in exile, monks from the Namtso monastery along with hundreds of laymen, half-naked to their waist, organised a sit-in protest at Meruma Township, Ngaba County.
Symbolic of Tibetan identity, the protesters were eating tradition Tibetan food Tsampa (roasted barley flour) and reciting the mani prayer.
Later in the afternoon, as the protestors began a candle light vigil, Chinese security personnel in large numbers stopped the Tibetans from proceeding.
“As the candle vigil was obstructed, the Tibetans started raising slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and freedom in Tibet,” a release by the exile base of Kirti monastery said today.
“The Chinese security personnel started to disperse the crowd with indiscriminate beating,” the release said. “Many monks and laymen were later arrested and whizzed away in a police truck.”
The same day, at around 11 am, over 300 Tibetans gathered in front of the Kirti monastery after Chinese security personnel, in a surprise raid, arrested a number of local Tibetans. The number of gathered Tibetans later swelled to over 500 in the afternoon.
“The Tibetans, with incense and candles in the hands, circumambulated the monastery under the watch of a large contingent of Chinese security personnel,” the release said.
In April last year, two elderly Tibetans died in the aftermath of beatings by Chinese police as they, along with several other senior citizens, tried to stop Chinese police from taking around 300 monks of the Kirti monastery to an undisclosed location.
The situation in Ngaba continues to remain tense following the protests.
Other reports also indicate that Tibetan nomads traveling to Kirti monastery to attend the 15-day prayer service beginning from January 25 are being beaten and arrested.
According to the Dharamshala based Kirti monastery, Tibetans in the region have shunned all celebrations for the new year and devoted the entire day to prayers.