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Friday, May 1, 1998 Published at 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK


Funeral of Tibetan suicide protester
image: [ A Tibetan mourner in New Delhi places a sacred scarf around a portrait of Thupten Ngodup ]
A Tibetan mourner in New Delhi places a sacred scarf around a portrait of Thupten Ngodup

The cremation has taken place in the town of Dharamsala in the Indian Himalayan foothills, the Dalai Lama's exiled headquarters, of a Tibetan who died after setting fire to himself in Delhi. Thupten Ngodup was protesting against the Indian police forcibly ending an anti-Chinese hunger strike by Tibetan exiles. He suffered 95% burns and died in hospital a day later.

Our South Asia correspondent Mike Wooldridge reports:

There have been emotional scenes in Dharamsala since Thupten Ngodup's body arrived at the outskirts of the hilltop town and was taken in procession to the main temple alongside the Dalai Lama's palace. His coffin was placed on an open jeep draped with Tibetan flags.

Many in the large Tibetan exiled community in Dharamsala prayed and wept openly in the streets. In the hours leading up to the cremation, the coffin had been showered with white silk scarves, a traditional Tibetan gesture of respect.

The Dalai Lama is not present; he's currently in the United States. But the Nobel peace prize winner concedes he has been left in a dilemma by Thupten Ngodup's death and by the hunger strike in Delhi.

He considers such actions to be forms of violence in themselves, but says he understands the determination behind them. The hunger strike, with more Tibetans now having replaced the original six who fasted for nearly 50 days, is aimed at persuading the United Nations to adopt a more interventionist stand over the Tibet issue.

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