The charred body of Sonam Dhargey covered with 'khatags' offered by thousands of gathered Tibetans at the Dolma square in Rebkong, eastern Tibet on March 17, 2012.
DHARAMSHALA, March 17: Details are finally emerging on the self-immolation protest that took place in Rebkong, eastern Tibet earlier today.
The 30th Tibetan to set his body on fire demanding the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and freedom in Tibet since 2009, has been identified as Sonam Dhargey, a 44-year-old farmer.
He succumbed to his burns at the site of his protest near the Rongwo town centre.
Sonam Dargye is survived by his wife Dolkar Kyi and three children (two sons and one daughter).
An exile Tibetan with contacts in the region told Phayul that Sonam Dhargey had travelled from his village and stayed overnight at a lodge in the town.
“In the morning Sonam Dhargey offered prayers before a photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, took bath to cleanse his body and then drank petrol,” Lobsang Choejor said citing source in the region.
Marching in the street, engulfed in flames, eyewitnesses heard Sonam Dhargey call for the return of the Dalai Lama from exile.
Sonam Dhargey had wound his torso with barbed wires, a tactic that has been earlier used by self-immolating Tibetans to restrict Chinese security personnel from getting hold of their bodies.
Local Tibetans carried Sonam Dhargey’s body to Dolma Square, the main ground in front of the Rongwo monastery, the site of monk Lobsang Palden's self-immolation protest three days ago.
As news spread of Sonam Dhargey’s fiery death, thousands of Tibetans from all over the town as well as from nearby villages, including some 600 Tibetans from Sonam’s village poured in to show their solidarity.
London based Free Tibet in a release today quoted eyewitnesses as saying that this was the “biggest gathering of people” in Rongwo town. Other sources say up to 8000 people assembled to pay their last respects.
“Sonam’s wife and other relatives are distraught but are described as not angry that he chose to die as they believe his decision to give his life was important and noble,” Free Tibet said citing sources in the region.
Although truckloads of Paramilitary People’s Armed Police arrived at the scene but they chose to withdraw seeing the large numbers of Tibetans present.
Amidst prayers led by the monks of the Rongwo monastery, Sonam Dhargey was cremated at a crematory behind the monastery, considered sacred by the Tibetans.
According to Free Tibet, the gathered people, after the funeral, started a march from the cremation site to Rongwo town centre calling for freedom and for the long life and return of the Dalai Lama.
“Other people from the town joined them on the streets as they marched. According to an eyewitness, hundreds of local people are continuing to protest in the streets,” the release said.