With Reports Of Violence, Anger Ignites Beyond Tibet
By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, March 15, 2008; A10
NEW DELHI, March 14 -- When Lhakpa Tsering received a call from his friend in Tibet on Friday afternoon, he immediately suspected something was wrong.
"Even before my friend spoke, I could hear the sound of gunfire and shouting in the background," Tsering said in a telephone interview from the northern Indian city of Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile run by the Dalai Lama.
As news of the violent uprising spread, exiles around the world huddled in cybercafes and tea shops to exchange information. In India and Nepal, protesters took to the streets to condemn China's rule in Tibet.
About 1,000 Tibetan demonstrators, including Buddhist monks, clashed with police in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu during a candlelight march toward the Chinese Embassy. In New Delhi, protests also turned violent after police beat and detained dozens of activists who had been chanting slogans outside the Chinese Embassy there.
"My friend is an activist in Lhasa, and he said to me: 'All of Lhasa is in smoke. Innocent people are being killed,' " recalled Tsering, who is the cultural secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress in India. "All the electricity connections had been snapped in his neighborhood. He was on the top floor, but he said he could see the Chinese treating Tibetans very badly. My friend said he saw two men being killed in front of him. His life was also at risk."
Earlier this week, more than 100 Tibetan exiles in northern India were arrested after they began a protest march to their homeland. On Friday, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, appealed to the protesters not to resume the march once released.
The roughly 130,000 Tibetan exiles in India have been at the forefront of the struggle for their homeland's independence since their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled Tibet and set up a government in India nearly a half-century ago. The Tibetan Youth Congress is the most outspoken and radical of the activist groups in India and has often tried to diverge from the path of moderation advocated by the Dalai Lama.
Tsering said his friend's last words to him before the phone connection failed were anguished and pleading.
"He was crying and said: 'Even if we die, it is okay. We are waiting for you, please don't stop your activities.' I could not say anything. I choked, and my eyes were filled with tears," Tsering said.
He added that the activists had been searching all day for photographs of the events in Lhasa and listening for news on the BBC.
The founder of Friends of Tibet (India), Sethu Das, said he had received a call from a source at a radio station in Lhasa who told him about 100 people had been killed. Such accounts were impossible to verify.
"The struggles and protests of the exile community in India all these years is nothing compared to what is happening in Lhasa today," Das said in a telephone interview. "It is much more difficult for the Tibetans inside Tibet to come out like this. It is the people inside Tibet who inspire those who are in exile. And it is not the other way around."