India braces for Olympic relay
Anti-China revolt is threatened
NEW DELHI - Thousands of police patrolled central New Delhi, guarding against anti-China protests for the Olympics torch relay today in India, the heart of the world's Tibetan exile community.
About 100 Tibetan exiles tried to breach the security cordon yesterday around the Chinese Embassy, and police dragged away about 50 of them, loading them into police vans - but not before they managed to spray paint "No Olympics in China" on a street near the embassy.
After decades of frosty relations, New Delhi is trying to forge closer ties with China, and Indian officials are desperate to avoid the chaos that occurred during torch runs in London, Paris, and San Francisco.
Many in India's 100,000-member Tibetan exile community, the world's largest, have threatened more of the protests that they've staged nearly every day here since demonstrations first broke out in Tibet in March and were put down by Chinese officials.
In recent weeks, Tibetan exiles here have stormed the Chinese Embassy, which is now surrounded by barricades and barbed wire, gone on hunger strikes, and shaved their heads to protest China's crackdown on protests in Tibet.
The exiles say the torch run through the city is a perfect opportunity to make their point, despite the fact that the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, says he supports China's hosting of the Olympics.
Protests are expected to begin early today, hours before the 4 p.m. (6:30 a.m. EDT) start of the relay.
Thousands of Tibetans reportedly were heading to New Delhi to protest and will take part in their own torch run to highlight the Tibetan struggle against China. Exiles also have urged Indian athletes to boycott the torch relay and asked residents to wear "Free Tibet" T-shirts and fly Tibetan flags.
"By speaking out when the Chinese government brings the Olympic torch to India, you will send a strong message to Tibetans, to the Chinese government, and to the world that Indians support the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people's nonviolent struggle for freedom and justice," according to Students for a Free Tibet, a strident exile group.
Some exiles have said they plan to make a more dramatic statement, possibly trying to douse or steal the Olympic flame, although activists were sketchy about their plans.
Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan activist with a reputation for publicity stunts, said he didn't want to talk about specific plans in a telephone interview yesterday because he fears his phone is tapped - a common practice in this part of the world.
"But be at India Gate tomorrow," he said, referring to a monument in New Delhi that the torch will pass.
Activists disrupted torch relays in Paris, London, and San Francisco. However, stops in Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina, Tanzania, Oman and Pakistan have been trouble-free.