New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Yesterday at 2:30 local time, the "March of return" to Tibet resumed after Indian authorities released 259 Tibetans and six members of the organising committee arrested on June 4. The marchers, whose journey was interrupted in Berinag, were set free in Paonta Sahib, a city on the border between the state of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where they received a warm welcome from local Tibetan community. In the meantime, the heads and one coordinator of the five non-governmental organisations promoting the "March" have also been released. They were arrested on May 27, and detained for 11 days in the prison of Haridwar. Now they are leading a group of 50 Tibetans ready to travel what seems to be the most demanding stage of the journey: the stretch from Berinag to the border with Tibet will last more than a week, during which the activists will travel about 180 kilometres along the historic Himalayan trade route.
In an interview with AsiaNews, Tsewang Rigzin, head of the Tibetan Youth Congress, recounts his days spent in the Indian prisons: "We were in jail in Indian prison for eleven days, and it was a time of solidarity for us with the situation inside Tibet and especially of the monks inside the monasteries who are being surrounded by Chinese security forces". India has shown us the highest degree of hospitality for the past 50 years", the activist affirms, "and we are grateful for it". But now, he says, "we are determined and committed to our cause, which is to continue peaceful protest against the illegal Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Beijing Olympics and the Olympic torch being taken through Tibet".
"During our detention, we realised", says Tsewang Rigzin, "that our freedom struggle comes with a price, and being imprisoned by Indian authorities was part of our freedom struggle. We are fighting for our national and our people and we are willing to pay any price". He confirms that the group of marchers will return to Tibet "at any cost", and will work with their brothers and sisters back home "to end China's illegal occupation of Tibet. Yesterday as we gathered together, the sight of the mountains filled our hearts with joys. It was an inspirational and uplifting moment. The mountains were simply beautiful and created a longing in our hearts to breathe the free air of our beloved motherland Tibet . . . There is a renewed zeal and a spirit of happiness among the marchers. Nothing will crush our spirit".
"The Olympic torch will pass through Tibet on the 19th June", concludes the leader of the youth movement, "and this hypocritical behaviour of the Chinese must be exposed to the international community. The Chinese are using the Beijing Olympics as a political tool to show to the whole world that Tibet is a part of China; this is shameful, and yet they continue their political games without any fear of international opinion".