By Phuntsok Yangchen
Thousands of Tibetans and supporters rally in Dharamshala to mark the 54th Tibetan National Uprising Day on March 10, 2013. (Phayul photo/Tentse)
DHARAMSHALA, March 10: A Tibetan man attempted to set himself on fire today in the exile headquarters of Dharamshala during a mass protest rally marking the 54th Tibetan National Uprising Day.
Dawa, in his 30s, reportedly consumed and poured kerosene over himself.
Speaking to Phayul, Sangchu Dugbey, an eye witness said: “When I saw him, he was carrying a bottle of kerosene and some girls were requesting, ‘Please, don’t do it.”
“We snatched the bottle of kerosene from his hand after which he pleaded with us to let him self-immolate,” Dugbey said. “He further said that he had decided to set himself on fire after thinking it over many times.”
Dawa was later taken to a local hospital.
Over a thousand Tibetans and supporters marched downhill from Tsug-la Khang to Lower Dharamshala carrying Tibetan flags and photos of Tibetan self-immolators.
Since 2009, as many as 107 Tibetans living under China’s rule have set themselves on fire demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile.
The protestors, wearing black-cloth around their foreheads, raised slogans for freedom in Tibet and international intervention in the ongoing crisis in Tibet.
Speaking at the rally, Ravi Thakur, Member of Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly from Lahaul Spiti called on Tibetans to stay united and continue their non-violent struggle under the Dalai Lama, “the only gem in the word.”
Tibetans and supporters in Taipei, Taiwan take part in the 54th Tibetan National Uprising Day demonstration carrying photos of Tibetan self-immolators on March 10, 2013.
“Over the past centuries, many outsiders have come and settled in India who have now lost their identity but you people have kept your identity alive and you should never lose your identity. I hope and pray that you will cherish your Tibetanness for many generations to come,” Thakur said.
“I have always stood up for the Tibetan people and will always stand up for you in the future as well.”
Tenzin Jigdel of Students For a Free Tibet said the dynamic of the Tibetan movement has changed and Tibetan resistance has never been stronger.
“There is a new revolution we are seeing inside Tibet … Tibetans inside Tibet are re-asserting their identity and their aspiration has never been stronger,” Jigdal said.
The protest march was jointly organised by the five major Tibetan NGO’s, Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet, National Democratic Party of Tibet, and Students For a Free Tibet.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected head of the Tibetan people, in his March 10 statement blamed China’s occupation and repression in Tibet for driving Tibetans to self-immolation.
“The prohibitions of peaceful protest and harsh punishments compel Tibetans to resort to self-immolation. They choose death rather than silence and submission to the Chinese authorities,” Sikyong Sangay said.