11/09/2009, 00.00
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Arunachal Pradesh: 30,000 to see the Dalai Lama

The Buddhist leader stresses his visit is non-political, remembers the first time he visited the Tawang monastery during his flight from Tibet. For Beijing, the visit is a provocation.
Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than 30,000 devout Buddhists listened this morning to a prayer recited by the Dalai Lama in the monastery in Tawang, a town in the northern Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh, on the border between Tibet and India. The religious leader reiterated that his visit was “not political”. Beijing by contrast described it as “highly provocative.”

In recent weeks, Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of stirring up unrest and challenging Chinese rule over Tibet with his visit to the Indian border State.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded to China saying that the Nobel Peace laureate was an “honoured guest” of India.

The faithful, including some who came from neighbouring Bhutan, travelled for days so as not to miss the meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The streets in Tawang were festooned with Tibetan flags and banners. Indian authorities did however limit media coverage of the Dalai Lama in order to limit China’s protest and reduce tensions.

Tawang is one of the most important places of Tibetan Buddhism. It is home to a 400-year-old monastery, the first one that welcomed the Dalai Lama 50 years ago when he fled Tibet.

In opening the prayer, the Dalai Lama reiterated that his visit was not political and that it was designed to promote nothing more than “universal brotherhood”. But China “always uses my trips to slander me.”

“Tawang,” the religious leader said, “has special meaning for me. There are many emotions involved. When I came here for the first time, I was worn out mentally and physically. At that time, Beijing had not yet started attacking me.”

Attacks against the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism have intensified in the past year.

Last August, the Dalai Lama, 74, made a controversial visit to Taiwan, a territory claimed by mainland China.

Beijing used the occasion to accuse him of encouraging separatism in China.

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