By Imran Khan
Patna, January 13 – A group of Buddhist monks opposed to the Dalai Lama and arrested in Bihar for threatening to immolate themselves are continuing their fast in jail.
The monks, who were arrested at Buddhism’s birthplace Bodh Gaya Saturday night, have threatened to continue their “fast unto death” till their demands are met. They were taken to the Gaya central jail Sunday evening.
The monks have been on a protest fast since Thursday demanding talks with the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama.
All India Monks Association general secretary Bhante Anand, who has been spearheading protests against the Dalai Lama, said the monks would continue their strike in jail and their compatriots outside would join them soon.
Gaya district Superintendent of Police Ravindran Shankaran said 13 monks had been arrested on charges of attempting suicide and creating disturbance on the eve of the Kalchakra festival in Bodh Gaya, 110 km from this state capital.
“Twelve monks were sent to jail and one was admitted to a government-run
hospital,” Shankaran said.
The monks had threatened to immolate themselves if the Dalai Lama did not open talks with them before inaugurating the Kalchakra festival, one of the most sacred rituals of Tibetan Buddhists that began Sunday amid tight security.
The nine-day festival started with special prayers led by the Nobel-winning spiritual leader. Thousands of Buddhists from across India and abroad have congregated for the Kalchakra festival.
Anand alleged the Indian monks had been arrested on baseless charges.
“We had said the monks would immolate themselves on Sunday, but they were arrested on Saturday night itself, which is nothing but a move to suppress our stir,” Anand told IANS Monday.
The Indian monks are unhappy with the Dalai Lama for his failure to support them over Buddhist control of the Mahabodhi temple, which stands near the spot where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment 2,500 years ago.
A Bihar government-appointed committee, dominated by Hindus, runs the temple, which was included in the list of Unesco’s world heritage sites last year.
The Indian monks want the Dalai Lama and Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorji, who heads a sect of Tibetan Buddhists, expelled from India. They also want a ban on entry with footwear into the Mahabodhi temple and an amendment in the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee Act.
Both the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa have found refuge in India after fleeing Tibet. A Tibetan government-in-exile headed by the Dalai Lama is based in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala.
Last month Anand and a few other Indian monks demanded that President A P J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee order the deportation of the Dalai Lama and Karmapa for their “questionable” acts and “pretensions”.
Anand also accused the Dalai Lama of anti-India activities. He alleged that the Karmapa and his mentor, the Dalai Lama, were misusing India’s hospitality.
Anand claimed that two years ago, the Karmapa had hurt the sentiments of millions of Buddhists across the world by entering the Mahabodhi temple with his shoes on.