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31may2011mm090Dharamshala: At the Drepung Monastery near Lhasa in Tibet, Chinese armed forces have disrupted the religious festival of Saga Dawa and kept the monastery under surveillance and strict control since the beginning of April.

Traditionally, during Saga Dawa, devotees will fast and make prayers from the April 1 through April 15, the last day marking both the birth, transcendence and death of Sakyamuni, also known as the Buddha.

In Drepung monastery it has been the responsibility of monks from the Hardhong khangtsen (house) to conduct the rituals necessary for Saka Dawa, but since 2008 they have not been allowed to celebrate the event at Drepung monastery despite sending formal applications to the relevant authorities.

According to Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), however, this year authorities gave their permission for Drepung monastery to celebrate Saka Dawa. Because of this, both lay people and the monastic community were getting ready to enjoy the celebrations together.

But on April 1, at 1pm, when the two-week fast was about to commence, a police unit suddenly entered the compound, forcing everyone to stop the religious activities and sending people away from the monastery.

Since then, about 60 normal and riot-police officers - with guns, helmets and shields - have been permanently patroling street just outside the monastery, with a special focus on the Hardhong khangtsen monks' activities.

Among the occupying forces are 3 high-ranking communist party cadres, including the vice-chairman of the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and a Conference vice-chairman of TAR. The TCHRD reports that these authorities are now controlling all activities in Drepung Monastery.

Since 2008, a smaller group of police officers have been stationed at the monastery under the pretext of safeguarding the compund in case of fire.