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Exiled Tibetans mark their New Year in Dharamsala under shadow of immolations

Dharamsala , Wed, 22 Feb 2012 ANI

Dharamsala, Feb.22 (ANI): Tibetans along with the Dalai Lama marked a tense traditional new year with prayers, the sounding of a gong and subdued defiance in Dharamsala on Wednesday, in the wake of a string of self-immolations and protests against Chinese control.


The traditional New Year, or "Losar", is a combination of Buddhist ceremony and family celebration observed across the Tibetan highlands of western China.


But this year, unrest has overshadowed the celebrations and there has even been a call from an exiled Tibetan leader for people to shun festivities and instead pray for those who have suffered under Chinese rule.


This year's Losar has brought no major flare-ups.


The Secretary for Religion and Cultural Department, Nawng Chodak, said the celebrations this year would be a low-key affair.


"This is the Tibetan New Year. We are having the regular prayers called Theto, presided by his holiness the Dalai Lama. And we will do the ritual part of the celebrations of the Tibetan New Year. But we are not going to celebrate the Tibetan New Year in the normal way because lots of Tibetans have been massacred in Tibet by Chinese, and many have self immolated themselves. So in support of their gesture we are not going to celebrate," he said.


China has repeatedly blamed exiled Tibetans for stoking the protests, including spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising.


The Dalai Lama, the 1989 peace laureate, says he advocates peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue and blames the Chinese policies for the current unrest.


The Dalai Lama has blamed the self-immolations on "cultural genocide" by the Chinese, and has not directly called for them to stop. But he has long denied Chinese accusations that he incites violence and wants full-fledged independence.


Tibet's government in exile said recently that the spate of self-immolations "indicate to us that the Chinese policies in Tibet have reached new levels of repression".


Protests by self-immolation are becoming more common in Tibet and in restive, ethnically Tibetan regions of China.


For China, the self-immolations are a small, but potentially destabilising, challenge to policies toward minority groups and the region. The government has branded the immolators "terrorists". (ANI)


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