Dharamsala: More than 100 Tibetan exiles in India were flagged off to loud applause on Monday as they started a symbolic march home as part of pro-independence protests ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Thousands lined the roads to cheer the marchers, mostly Buddhist monks in red caps, who said they plan to make it over the Chinese border.
But as they walked from the Himalayan hill town of Dharamshala, seat of the Tibetan government in exile, organizers refused to reveal where any attempt would be made to cross the border. They said it could take up to six months, but refused to name their final destination.
“This march reflects the true aspirations of Tibetans inside Tibet and in exile,” said Tsewang Rigzin, Tibetan Youth Congress president.
“With the Olympics in China, and the Chinese government using this platform to legitimize its illegal occupation of Tibet, we are demonstrating that Tibet belongs to Tibetans and we will never give up until Tibet is independent.”
Five Tibetan groups organized the march, but they are tight-lipped about the route because New Delhi prohibits Tibetan exiles from using India as a springboard for anti-China political campaigns.
Monday marked the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s escape from Lhasa after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Tibetan activists are also planning a rival “Tibetan Olympics” here in May.
China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after Beijing sent in troops to “liberate” the devoutly Buddhist region.