Crowds gathered in the main square of Tibet's exiled community of Dharamshala in the Himalayan foothills of India on the evening of June the 16th. The ex-political prisoners association had organised the event to coincide with the Saga Dawa holiday, a day which was also marked by a full moon and lunar eclipse.
The protest of at least 300 peacefully led its way through the narrow streets of the Indian town, led by Buddhist monks and local Tibetans, to the Main Temple, which sits panoramically perched overlooking the plains of Himachal Pradesh below.
Chants rang out across the temple and members of the Gu-Chu-Sum movement addressed the crowd; who held aloft candles in the warm scenic evening.
The issue being raised was of the arrests and crackdowns witnessed in Karze county of Eastern Tibet. Information leaked by the Karze Association to the exile community reveals that since June 2011, a total of 17 have been arrested in Karze county. These are largely due to peaceful demonstrations calling for a Free Tibet from Chinese rule, and there were rallying calls for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return, and for the mass influx of Han migrants to ‘go back to China'.
As a result of the demonstrations, the 17 peaceful protesters-consisting of Monks, Nuns and Laymen aged between 17 to 32 years old, have been arrested and not seen since.
In addition to the crackdown on the recent events, Gu-Chu-Sum also raised the alarming issue that since the 2008 uprising in Tibet, the following people have been killed due to protests against Chinese rule; Dhamtsig Khadro, Sherab Yangtso, Pema Gyaltsen and Yangkyi Dolma. The movement hopes to raise international awareness on the appalling human rights record China is performing in the region.
Gu-Chu-Sum highlighted the tragic death of Dhonden, a local farmer, who passed away at home due to torture from Chinese authorities on March the 3rd 2011.
In an exclusive interview for the Tibet Post International, Sonam of the Gu Chu Sum movement commented that:
"In recent days there have been continuous protests in Karze County [East Tibet]. Two nuns were arrested on June 10th; they were protesting at the local market. Goyang, a thirty year old monk was also arrested. People in the region are calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet".
As the event drew to a close the sounds of resident Buddhists at the temple and the surrounding walkway could be heard chanting on this sacred, holy day. The freedom of religion that Tibetans can express in the exiled community of Dharamshala cannot be performed freely in their homeland, and all thoughts for the evening turned to the brothers and sisters suffering in Karze county; Tibet.