Tibetan activists marched on Wednesday in New Delhi. Dozens of protesters were detained after a demonstration was broken up in front of the Chinese Embassy.
By AMELIA GENTLEMAN and HARI KUMAR
It was the second embarrassing security breach in two days as India prepared to receive the Olympic torch relay on Thursday. The episode fueled anxiety that the Delhi portion of the relay could be a potentially volatile leg of the Olympic torch’s troubled worldwide tour, which ends in Beijing in August.
India is home to a diaspora of an estimated 100,000 Tibetans, as well as the host for the headquarters in exile of the Dalai Lama. Hundreds of Tibetans, along with volunteers from a number of Tibetan organizations, have traveled to New Delhi in recent weeks to prepare for large-scale protests in the city on Thursday.
On Wednesday, amid tight security, runners carried the Olympic flame unmolested around the outside of a sports stadium in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, before a modest, invitation-only crowd. The Pakistani government, a longtime ally of China, deployed thousands of police officers with explosives-sniffing dogs along the torch route, according to The Associated Press.
On Tuesday, 27 demonstrators were arrested in Delhi after breaking through police ranks to mount an alternative “protest torch relay.”
Though mostly silent about their preparations, Indian officials confirmed that they planned to deploy more than 10,000 police officers, as well as members of India’s security forces, to safeguard the route here.
The torch is expected to proceed along the Rajpath, Delhi’s wide central artery, which runs between the presidential palace and the pink sandstone memorial arch called India Gate. The course was shortened to slightly less than two miles after protests disrupted the torch relay in London and Paris.
Indian Olympic officials were so nervous about the possibility of disturbances that they refused even to reveal precise details of when the relay would begin.
Asked about security preparations, the president of the Indian Olympic Association, Suresh Kalmadi, said only, “We don’t want scenes of what happened in Paris and London to be repeated here.”
By midday Wednesday, the police had already closed the torch route to cars and pedestrians and had begun installing barricades and metal detectors. Subway stations around the torch route will be closed Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the system said, and government offices are to be closed in the area all afternoon.
The police presence outside the Chinese Embassy, which has been high since protests began in March, was increased after demonstrators broke through security cordons Wednesday morning. Thick rolls of razor wire were in place around the embassy boundary wall.
Even before Wednesday’s arrests, the controversies around the torch had become something of an embarrassment for the Indian and Chinese governments. A number of sports stars and celebrities have bowed out of the relay.
About a mile from the torch route, hundreds of Tibetan protesters were preparing themselves for Thursday’s demonstrations.
Beneath a large banyan tree, on Jantar Mantar, a place in central Delhi where the authorities permit demonstrations, volunteers with the Tibetan Solidarity Committee were making banners to carry in a “peace run” that they hoped to hold a few hours before the Olympic torch run.
Members of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which led the protests at the embassy on Wednesday and on the torch route on Tuesday, also said they were planning demonstrations for Thursday.
“We are against the Olympics in China, and we have been protesting from the very beginning,” the group’s president, Tsewang Rigzin, said Wednesday by phone. “We will continue to protest till the Olympics. This is the world’s uprising against China.”