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02february2011020200tDharamshala: Thousands of devotees including Tibetans, Indians, nuns and monks gathered on Wednesday in a peaceful show of solidarity and support for His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Lama, making their way in procession from McLeod Ganj to the Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery, a distance of more than 20km.

The Monastery, where the Karmapa was set to address the congregation of followers, also attracted several intrigued foreigners as well as participants representing the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the Tibetan Women's Association (TWA), the Gu Chu Sum Movement of Tibet, the National Democratic Party of Tibet, and the Students for a Free Tibet.

The event on Wednesday was led by Tibetan writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue, who spoke in Tibetan, Hindi and English to the many and varied supporters gathered in front of the monastery. "This is not a protest; we are not against anybody. (...) We are the devotees of the Karmapa," he explained, describing the gathering as a ‘spontaneous response of the people' to show their support, faith and love to the Karmapa and also to India.

During his brief two-minute address the Karmapa showed a calm optimism as he reassured his audience of his faith in the Indian system, urging them in Tibetan: "Let the investigating agencies do their work. Truth will prevail."

Refuting the 'baseless' accusations against the Karmapa, Tsundue proclaimed that his supporters had "come here with the conviction that our Karmapa is not a Chinese spy, we have come here with this conviction." In relation to the allegations he also had this encouraging message: "We should look at this not as a problem, we should look at this as a test of our love and compassion. This is the teaching of His Holiness the Karmapa."

In acknowledging the hospitality of the Indian people, Tsundue noted that since the arrival of the first 600 Tibetans more than fifty years ago, the population of Tibetans in Himachal Pradesh has ballooned to 27 000: "We want to thank the people and the government of Himachal Pradesh who have been very kind and generous in hosting us. (...) They really loved and took care of us, and once we go back to our own country we will remember Dharamshala forever in our hearts."

Tsundue thanked the Indian people for their generosity in the face of a growing Tibetan population requiring more land and resources such as hospitals and refugee camps, adding that it was "because of that all these problems have been coming about. (However) we have faith in the Indian system and in democracy." His statements were warmly welcomed by the crowd as an affirmation of the loyalty and gratitude of the Karmapa and the Tibetan people to India.

02february20110202009The Karmapa has been entrenched in controversy since police raids of his residence uncovered a large quantity of unaccounted foreign currency, including 1.1 million Chinese Yuan, sparking speculation that he might in fact be a spy for the Chinese. The Karmapa, who is the third highest lama in Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu School, has been questioned twice by authorities and his representatives have maintained that the cash was the result of donations from his many devotees from around the world.

In a statement posted on its official website, the office of the Karmapa said that "We can confirm that Rs.5 crore ($1 million) was taken by the (Indian) authorities from the monastery.

"This sum represents unsolicited donations... Our administration has sought to acquire clearance since 2002 to deposit cash donations under the Foreign Exchange Maintenance Act.

"As for the Chinese currency, we would like to stress that His Holiness the Karmapa has a large and devoted following of Tibetans from Tibet and of Buddhists from the Chinese mainland. The yuan found constitutes less than 10 percent of the cash in question, which included currency from over 20 countries.

"Moreover, the yuan seized by police include notes ranging from 1 yuan to larger denominations, clearly indicating that they come from multiple, individual sources," the statement said.

A representative of the Karmapa's office on Wednesday advised people to exercise patience and not rush to conclusions: "let the process run its course. The investigations are underway, let us not disrupt the local people during this time."

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