Prayers, hunger strikes mark Tibetan sacred festival

Dharamsala : Thousands of Tibetan exiles assembled in this Himachal Pradesh town Wednesday on the first day of the sacred Losar festival, and offered prayers for peace and ending human rights violations against Tibetans in China.”Exiles, monks and well-wishers are praying and fasting for the well-being of their brethren in Tibet,” a spokesperson for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), based here, said .

Special prayers have been planned at the hilltop Tsuglagkhang temple close to the official palace of the Dalai Lama at McLeodganj, to highlight the plight of people of Tibet.

According to the Tibetan lunar calendar, Losar is the first day of the year and traditionally celebrated by Tibetans in a big way.

This year, the Tibetan parliament-in-exile has urged Tibetans living in exile not to celebrate Losar in the traditional manner.

“News is also emerging of the arrest of many Tibetan writers and intellectuals from all across Tibet. Tibetan parliament-in-exile is deeply concerned. We once again fervently urge the Chinese government to give serious consideration to our legitimate demands and appeals we have made so far,” Tibetan parliament spokesperson Tenzin Norbu said.

He said representatives of the Tibetan parliament and the CTA would sit on a daylong solidarity hunger strike at the Tsuglagkhang temple for the victims of Chinese police firing and self-immolations in Tibet.

“We are expressing solidarity with the sufferings of the people inside Tibet,” Parliament Speaker Penpa Tsering said.

Tibetan prime minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay, who is currently touring Europe, said in a message on eve of Losar: “News from Tibet continues to be grim. Tibet is virtually sealed off with foreigners not allowed to enter. Even Chinese tourists are prevented from visiting Tibet, and the military buildup is very heavy.”

According to the CTA, over 20 people have set themselves on fire in Tibet since last March in protest against China’s policies, while calling for Tibet’s freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama to his homeland.

Meanwhile, a sombre mood is prevailing over the entire locality of McLeodganj, which is known for its Tibetan artefacts and traditional recipes like Tibetan dumplings.

The streets are lined with banners and posters depicting photographs of those who have sacrificed their lives in Tibet.

India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans.

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