Hundreds of Tibetans challenged the “spirit” of the Olympic flame relay and demanded freedom for their country by taking out their own torch run in New Delhi on Thursday.
About 3,000 protesters wearing white T-shirts bearing ‘Torch Tibet’ and monks sporting red robes marched almost three kilometres from Rajghat to Jantar Mantar a few hours before the actual torch run on Rajpath.
Protesters carried at least seven golden coloured burning torches. Volunteers protected them from scores of policemen lined up on the entire stretch. The torches were greeted at Jantar Mantar with a huge cheer.
“The official relay has little spirit of Olympics, as it is being organised under heavy security. We decided to live up to its original spirit and organised a parallel run,” said Tseten Norbu, spokesman of Tibetan Solidarity Committee that organised the protest.
Carrying banners that read ‘Torch Tibet— the real run of harmony’ and ‘Free Tibet’, the protesters shouted slogans against Chinese “atrocities” in their country.
A number of well known faces like former defence minister George Fernandes, Arunachal Pradesh MP Kiren Rijiju, politician Jaya Jaitley, Nafisa Ali, former cricketer Kirti Azad and Swami Agnivesh, participated in the relay. Rijiju said the “relay was indeed the genuine run to create awareness about Tibetans’ exploitation”.
The torch was lit at Rajghat after an inter-religion prayer meeting. Scores of Tibetans took a pledge to ensure the torch, which “signifies the freedom of Tibet and humanity”, keeps on burning. The run passed off without much trouble, barring an incident when Jaya Jaitley suddenly broke away from the group near Janpath, carrying aloft an electric torch that she said was “symbolic of the protest flame”. Nervous policemen unsuccessfully tried to snatch the torch thrice in a minor scuffle.