Delhi cuts torch route to avoid protests

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The Independent Online

Thousands of Tibetan protesters are gathering in Delhi ahead of today's Olympic torch relay that could see the biggest demonstration against China yet. Such are the security concerns that only a handful of people will beallowed to witness the run.

Police detained at least 50 Tibetans yesterday, after they tried to break a security cordon around the Chinese embassy. Protesters used spray paint to write anti-China slogans on pavements and the road in front of the compound. India is home to 100,000 Tibetans, many of whom live in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Dalai Lama, the political and spiritual leader.

The authorities have trimmed the length the torch will travel to just a third of the original five-mile route. Carried by a number of Indian athletes and Bollywood stars, it is due to pass from the President's palace to the India Gate war memorial – secured from the public by 15,000 police and accompanied by 20 Chinese guards. "We have made good security arrangements," said India's sports minister, M S Gill.

Traffic and underground trains will be prevented from travelling to the centre of the city.

But some campaigners will protest away from the route and stage an alternative torch run. Youdon Aukatsang, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, said 3,000 people would participate. "Our torch will be a symbol of our non-violent, peaceful struggle. It is not our plan to disrupt the Olympic torch," he said.

Others clearly do. Dhondup Dorjee, of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which has been at odds with the stance of the Dalai Lama, said members would try and get as near as possible to the relay. He said: "We will go as close as possible [to the Chinese guards] and ask them to shoot us down."

The torch was due to arrive in India last night from neighbouring Pakistan.