- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

NEW DELHI (AP) — Runners carried the Olympic flame yesterday along a heavily guarded route through central New Delhi, protected by about 15,000 police who kept Tibetan exiles and other anti-China protesters from disrupting the ceremony.

Much of New Delhi’s leafy British colonial-era center — where the presidential palace, Parliament and government ministries are located — was sealed off to traffic and pedestrians in some of the tightest security ever seen in the capital.

India is home to the world’s largest Tibetan exile community, and thousands held a peaceful mock torch relay earlier yesterday elsewhere in New Delhi to draw attention to the Chinese crackdown in Tibet. Protests were also held in other Indian cities, including Bombay, where 25 people who tried to storm the Chinese Consulate were detained.

To avoid the chaos that has marked the torch runs in London, Paris and San Francisco, Indian authorities cut the relay route to fewer than two miles. That meant each of the 70 runners in the relay could jog with the flame for only a few seconds before handing it to the next person.

Shortly after the Olympic flame was flown to New Delhi early yesterday from its last stop in Pakistan, about two dozen Tibetan exiles chanted anti-China slogans and protested along a busy highway to the airport. Several of the protesters were detained by police.

Thousands of Tibetans took part in their own torch run to highlight the Tibetan struggle. That run began with a Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh prayer session at the site where Indian pacifist icon Mohandas K. Gandhi was cremated. The torch was then lit, and Tibetans put on a show of traditional dancing.

On Wednesday, about 100 protesters tried to breach the security cordon around the Chinese Embassy. Police dragged away about 50, hustling them into police vans — but not before they managed to spray paint “No Olympics in China” on a street near the embassy.

The protests reached the isolated Indian Himalayan region of Ladakh, which borders Tibet, where at least 5,000 Tibetan exiles and local Buddhists marched amid a strike call that shut down all businesses and schools, said M.K. Bhandari, a senior local official.

Chanting “Free Tibet!” and “Down with China!” the protesters carried Tibetan flags as they marched through Leh, the region’s main town. Ladakh is home to about 7,000 Tibetan exiles.

The Olympic torch heads next to Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, where authorities say they may similarly shorten Saturday’s relay route to about six miles because of security concerns.

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