| Lhakpa Tsering, a Tibetan protester who set himself on fire in Mumbai on Thursday. (PTI)
Mumbai, Nov. 23: A Tibetan youth set himself on fire this morning outside the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers opposite Gateway of India.
Twelve Tibetan activists led by 21-year-old Lhakpa Tsering drove right up to the Mumbai hotel minutes before Chinese President Hu Jintao was to address a Sino-Indian trade and investment summit.
“They came in two taxis, which parked right in front of the police barricade outside the hotel, and jumped out chanting slogans against China’s occupation of Tibet,” said Nitesh Wadhwani, who owns a small shop in the area.
The protesters unfurled a Tibetan flag before Lhakpa doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire. “Policemen rushed to douse the fire as the boy screamed at the top of his voice and his friends watched. His trousers were on fire, but the police could put out the fire in minutes,” he said.
The police later cordoned off roads adjacent to the hotel.
Mumbai police commissioner A.N. Roy said: “Lhakpa Tsering is the head of the Tibetan Youth Congress in Bangalore. He was not seriously wounded. We have detained him and his associates for questioning.”
The police, who had been directed to prevent any untoward incident during Hu’s visit to the city, patted themselves on the back for stopping the protesters outside the barricades. “The Tibetans could not break the barricade and the incident took place at least 100 m away from the hotel. So there was no breach of security,” said Surendra Kumar, joint commissioner (protection), Mumbai.
Around midday, minutes before Hu’s cavalcade made its way to the airport via Marine Drive, three Tibetan protesters were arrested from a flyover. “We are not sure whether any one of them planned to attempt suicide, but we couldn’t take chances,” said Arup Patnaik, joint commissioner (law and order), Mumbai.