Tight security in Delhi for Olympic torch relay today
The national capital was turned virtually into a security fortress today for the Olympic torch relay with thousands of policemen keeping a hawk-eye vigil to prevent any attempts by Tibetans to disrupt the event.
A large number of security personnel, including Rapid Action Force men armed with assault rifles, were deployed near Le Meridien hotel, where the torch is reportedly kept, even as Tibetans held a protest during wee hours.
A total of about 15,000 paramilitary along with police personnel have been deployed across the city, a senior police official said.
Barricades have been erected on the Rajpath, the designated route for the relay, and forces were also keeping a strict watch on Tibetan protesters to prevent them from disrupting the Olympic torch run on the designated route.
The security arrangements have been enhanced for Chinese embassy, which has witnessed a number of protests in the last few days, and hundreds of policemen were also keeping a tight vigil at many other areas in the city.
The India-leg of the torch relay is considered one of the most sensitive as the country is home to about one lakh exiled Tibetans, who organised a wave of protests against the recent Chinese crackdown in Lhasa.
Leaving nothing to chance, the government has decided to put in place a three-layered security ring for the 2.3 km-run on the Rajpath.
The relay will witness 70 celebrities including 47 sportspersons, who will run along the Rajpath amid Republic Day-type multi-layered security.
While cricket star Sachin Tendulkar has excused himself from the event, actors Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Sagarika Ghatge and sportspersons like P T Usha and Anju Bobby George are among the prominent personalities taking part in the relay.
School students would line up along Rajpath to cheer the runners but the relay, which would begin from Rashtrapati Bhavan and culminate at India Gate, will be out of bounds for general public.
About 20 Chinese commandos, drawn from the Olympic Holy Flame Protection Group, will form the inner circle of the security ring while the elite National Security Guards personnel will provide the second ring of protection.
Commandos from the elite NSG will take control of all the highrise buildings along the relay route and keep a watch from rooftops even as two choppers will provide air cover for the event.
Delhi Police and CRPF will form the outer circle of the security cordon of about 15,000 personnel to keep off Tibetan protesters.
The relay route, which was curtailed from nine kilometers to 2.3 kms in view of fears of disruption by Tibetans, has already been sanitised.
The Tibetans have announced a parallel relay for "Free Tibet" which will see senior politicians like George Fernandes and Yashwant Sinha and internationally acclaimed writer Arundhati Roy taking part in it.