Non-cooperation is directed not against men but against measures. It is not directed against the Governors, but against the system they administer. The roots of non-cooperation lie not in hatred but in justice, if not in love. —Mahatma Gandhi
Two thousand protesters staged a rival torch relay to protest the arrival of the Olympic torch in New Delhi:
Tibetans, led by Buddhist monks and backed by local supporters, set off from Rajghat, mausoleum of Mahatma Gandhi, the champion of India’s non-violent independence movement, carrying a torch they said symbolised a free Tibet.
“Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Stop the killings in Tibet,” the protesters shouted as they marched to a square 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) away from the barricaded site of the Olympic relay.
Indian supporters including parliamentarians, writers and social activists joined the Tibetans.
“As Indians we think we are the motherland of Buddhism. We should support the Tibetans who have upheld their culture and Buddhism,” said Rukmini Sekhar, a New Delhi-based Indian marcher.
The protesters have been instructed not to use violence:
Jamyang Choephel, of the Tibet Solidarity Committee, said that protesters were under instructions to proceed without violence. As he mapped out the route with a stick in the dusty earth, giving directions to waiting campaigners, he said: “We want to tell the world that the torch can only be carried if you have peace and calm and humanity around you. The Chinese who are organizing the Olympic torch relay have no peace, they have no humanity.”
The Associated Press is reporting that even bigger crowds were protesting separately in Ladakh:
The protests reached the isolated Indian Himalayan region of Ladakh, which borders Tibet, where at least 5,000 Tibetan exiles and local Buddhists marched amid a strike call that shut down all businesses and schools, said M.K. Bhandari, a senior local official.
Chanting “Free Tibet!” and “Down with China!” the protesters carried Tibetan flags as they marched through Leh, the region’s main town. Ladakh is home to about 7,000 Tibetan exiles.
Tibetan exiles, who number more than 100,000 in India, have staged near-daily protests in New Delhi since demonstrations first broke out in Tibet in March and were put down by Chinese authorities.
This YouTube gives some pictures of the protest there:
So far the Olympic torch relay itself – which is underway – has been peaceful according to local news reports.
Meanwhile, China has delayed the opening of Tibet to foreigners and tourists, indicating that there is still unrest in the region:
China has abandoned plans to reopen riot-hit Tibet to visitors on May 1, a tourism official in the Himalayan region said Thursday, amid reports of simmering tension there.
Asked whether the reopening for foreign and domestic tourists had been postponed, a Tibet Tourism Bureau official told AFP by phone: “Yes, because conditions are not ripe for it.”
The man, who refused to give his name but said he was director of the bureau’s main office in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, said a new date had not been set.
There is no way of knowing what the cause of the unrest is as Tibet is still closed to journalists.
Please keep all sides of this conflict in your thoughts, prayers and meditations. In honor of those using nonviolence in India I’ll leave you with this, taken from Richard Attenborough’s film adaption of Gandhi’s life:
UPDATE What if you have a party and no one shows up? In the ultimate act of non-cooperation, that’s what appears to have been the case today in the Olympic torch relay in New Delhi:
Around 70 sportsmen and celebrities including Bollywood film stars jogged along former British colonial streets on a roughly 1.9-mile (3-km) route, shortened due to fears of Tibetan protests after disruptions in other cities like Paris. Across India, thousands of mainly Tibetans protested.
But the relay took place in a rare bubble of emptiness in a city normally teeming with street sellers, noisy autorickshaws and honking traffic.
There were almost no crowds apart from some flag-waving Chinese and a few dozen school children bussed in by officials.
Surrounded by security guards in tracksuits, police and troops with automatic rifles, runners could only wave to the television cameras.
Now this could be a very effective form of nonviolent protest after the events in London, Paris and San Francisco…
UPDATE (2) The International Herald Tribune gives more details surrounding the sombre journey of the Torch of Discontent:
The atmosphere for the torch relay was very different, devoid of the usual sense of festivity. The streets around the route were empty of all vehicles aside from police trucks and vans. Members of the public were not allowed near the route, which began at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the red sandstone presidential palace designed by the British colonial architect Edward Lutyens, and ended at another Delhi landmark, the war memorial at India Gate. Instead only selected guests and a few schoolchildren were permitted to attend, alongside journalists.
Delhi police and paramilitary officers armed with rifles and wooden sticks lined the avenue; policemen wearing blue tracksuits were gathered by the side of the road and several hundred anti-riot officers wearing helmets and carrying plastic shields were waiting in side streets.
So, in a bizarre sense, a quiet non-cooperation with the torch relay was actually fostered by an overly zealous police presence. IHT reports that many protesters were arrested as they still tried to break through the security barriers.
IHT also notes that this “relay” stood in sharp contrast with the torch protest relay staged earlier by pro-Tibet groups.
Of course, an enforced negative peace created by a heavily armed security presence is something that the Chinese government propaganda arm is calling a “success”:
“The spirit of the Olympics is universal and should be upheld by the whole world,” said Kalmadi, who ran the first leg of the relay between Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, and India Gate.
During the torch relay, more than 400 expatriate Chinese from the eastern Indian city of Calcutta performed a traditional Chinese lion dance to celebrate the occasion.
Some 15,000 security guards were deployed along the 2.3-km relay route to guarantee the success of the torch relay, in which 70 torchbearers participated.
Somehow, I don’t think the rest of the world quite sees eye-to-eye with Chinese officials regarding what the “spirit of the Olympics” really is, and whether a public relay where the public is excluded can really be called a “success”.
On to Australia…
UPDATE (3) Reuters is reporting that dozens of monks have been detained today in Tongren, in Qinghai province:
BEIJING, April 17 (Reuters) – Armed police raided a monastery in northwest China and detained dozens of Tibetan Buddhist monks on Thursday, following anti-Chinese protests in February, according to a Beijing-based source.
The police seized audiovisual disks and pictures of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the source, who has wide contacts among Tibetans, quoted relatives of the monks as saying.
They took away four fifths of the monastery’s inhabitants — around 200 people — and dozens more lay locals, some of whom had tried to prevent police from detaining the monks.
The monks in Tongren, in remote Qinghai province, protested in February after police disrupted a Buddhist ceremony in the local monastery. They shouted slogans calling for religious freedom and wishing the Dalai Lama a long life, the source said.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd and detained some 200 monks. The next day, thousands of monks marched in protest around the county seat, and the local government released the monks who had been arrested a day earlier, the source added.
Further protests were then held by the monks from the monastery, whose name in Chinese the source gave as Longwu.
The source did not know the precise reason for the latest detentions.
I, for one, reflect on the use of 15,000 police to guard the Olympic torch relay in New Delhi, and the subsequent labeling of such an event a “success” by Chinese authorities, and I believe it speaks volumes about the insistence of the government in China to maintain a negative peace – a negative “harmony” – at all costs. True peace, true harmony, can only result when the source of an injustice is confronted and removed, and if this is done through the use of nonviolence it more easily allows all parties to reconcile so that this lasting harmony can be more quickly achieved.
The use of force will only quell a riot here, a protest there, but it will not help achieve a true and lasting harmony.
And what does it mean to IOC officials to have their torch associated with the use of force to maintain a negative peace? And what about sponsors like Coca-Cola, a company that – by rights – was instrumental in helping the local Atlanta community embrace Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his quest for desegregation? Doesn’t this latest association tarnish their brand?
Is this the Olympic spirit?
My thoughts and prayers go out to these monks, the latest casualties of the Chinese government’s quest to achieve “harmony”.
Diarist’s note – as this is important news I amended the title of this diary to reflect this recent event.