Shimla/New Delhi: Eight foreigners, suspected to be Taiwanese, who have been arrested for illegally staying in Himachal Pradesh, were sent to three days police custody by a local court Wednesday. Police had previously described them as Chinese nationals
They were arrested for staying illegally in Chauntra village near Jogindernagar in Mandi district, about 300 km from here, in a massivepolice crackdown Tuesday evening. Police seized Rs.30 lakh in cash as well as $3,000 from their possession.
“They are believed to be from Taiwan as the seized passports are from the Republic of China (Taiwan, not the People’s Republic of China),” said Additional Director General of Police S.R. Mardi.
The accused, between the ages of 20 to 40, were holding valid tourist visas and were illegally working as carpenters and painters in an under-construction palatial house, believed to be owned by a resident of Sikkim.
Chauntra village is located on Mandi-Pathankot highway close to Kangra district and has a large settlement of Tibetan exiles.
“We are investigating whether the seized passports of the Republic of China are genuine or not,” Mardi added.
In New Delhi, the Chinese embassy said it had sought details about the arrests.
“We have noticed media reports (about the arrests) and have contacted relevant Indian government officials to seek formal and detailed information about the case,” says a Chinese embassy official.
Dismissing reports that the arrested people were spies, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said in Shimla their identity was still being ascertained.
“It’s a matter of investigation. Their identity is yet to be ascertained. In view of the apprehensions expressed by the Dalai Lama (regarding threatto his life), we can’t say off hand that they had some ulterior motive.The inquiry is on,” Dhumal told reporters.
Mandi’s Superintendent of Police Abhishek Dullar said besides Rs.30 lakh in cash and $3,000, five SIM cards of Indian telecom operators and three laptops were found on them.
“They had been staying illegally for quite some time. Some of them came as early as April. Their credentials are under investigation as they have not registered themselves with the foreigner’s registration office,” he added.
The accused were produced in a Jogindernagar court where Judicial Magistrate J.L. Azad sent them to three days of police remand.
Last month, the Dalai Lama had spoken of athreat to his life from Chinese agents, and said that Tibetan women werebeing trained to harm him.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Telegraph in Britain May 8, the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner said he had received reports that Chinese agents had trained Tibetan women for a mission to poison him while posing as devotees seeking his blessings.
Meanwhile, the Central Tibetan Administration’s Minister for Security, Ngodup Dongchung, told reporters in Dharamsala he did not relate the arrest of the suspected Taiwanese with the threat to the Dalai Lama.
“As per our information, they were just construction workers. We don’twant to relate their presence with the security threat of His Holiness (the Dalai Lama),” he said.
Chauntra village is just 90 km from the Dalai Lama’s official palace in McLeodganj.
Police officers said the under-construction house belonged to a resident of Sikkim.
A case under sections 379 (theft) and 411 (receiving stolen property) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered. They have also been booked under the Essential Commodities Act, the Excise Act, the Income Tax Act and the Foreigners Act.
Photo by Amit