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Vancouver Canada
19-04-08, 14:24
Thousands of police defend torch

Parul Gupta, Delhi
April 18, 2008

SCORES of Tibetan demonstrators were arrested yesterday as thousands of police and soldiers defended the Beijing Olympic torch on a suffocating run through the Indian capital.

The heart of Delhi was almost totally sealed off for the most sensitive leg of the protest-hit global relay to date, with security personnel far outnumbering the schoolboys and other select onlookers allowed to watch.

India is home to 100,000 Tibetan refugees, including the Dalai Lama and radical youth groups, and authorities wanted to ensure that chaotic protests like those seen in Paris and London did not mar the event.

The heavily scaled-back 2.3-kilometre relay lasted little more than 30 minutes without any disruption. Relay participants were tightly marshalled by tracksuited Chinese security guards, and allowed to run a few metres each.

An estimated 16,000 police, soldiers and even elite commandos were deployed to throw up a huge security cordon around the avenue between the presidential palace and India Gate, two of Delhi's main landmarks.

"We have around 170 to 180 people in custody," a senior police official said after a day marked by a string of protests and shrouded in a fortress-like atmosphere of tracker dogs, bomb disposal units and metal detectors.

The Tibetan Youth Congress, a radical activist group that spearheaded attempts to disrupt the event, gave a similar figure on the number of demonstrators taken in by police throughout the day.

They said among those arrested were a group of about 70 protesters who tried to make a run for the area where the torch relay began.

Another activist, Tibetan poet Tenzin Tsundue, said several of those detained had suffered injuries.

Another 46 Tibetans were arrested in India's financial capital, Mumbai, as they tried to storm the Chinese consulate, police in the city said.

The round-the-world relay has been dogged by protests over China's military crackdown in Tibet and its human rights record — overshadowing China's prestige in hosting the world's biggest sporting event. In India, authorities said they were even worried that Tibetan activists might set themselves on fire in front of TV cameras.

Police said they had been equipped with blankets and water, but no self-immolations were reported.

Several thousand Tibetan protesters did, however, stage a rival torch relay, setting off from the mausoleum of Mahatma Gandhi, the champion of India's non-violent independence movement.

Seventy Indian sports figures, entertainers and others took part in the torch run, including Bollywood actors Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan and tennis player Leander Paes.

Jiang Xiaoyu, the vice president of the Beijing Olympic organising committee, thanked India for it organisational skills.

AFP

http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/thousands-of-police-defend-torch/2008/04/18/1208025393824.html