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Aamir faces trial by torch
- Tibet activists appeal to actor to stay off Olympics event

March 27: The actor-activist who helped keep alive the flame of protest against the Narmada dam has now been asked to drop the biggest torch of them all.

Tibetan leaders seeking freedom from Chinese rule today appealed to actor Aamir Khan not to participate in the Beijing Olympic torch relay next month.

“Aamir Khan is one of the torch-bearers and we’ve requested all celebrities who are taking part in the relay to refrain from doing so. All of them know what is happening in Tibet. They should express solidarity with Tibetans by not taking part in the torch relay,” Tibetan Youth Congress president Tsewang Rigzin said in Dharamsala.

Besides Aamir Khan, tennis star Leander Paes, actress Soha Ali Khan and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi are expected to be part of the torch relay in New Delhi on April 17.

The Tibetan Youth Congress has launched a parallel “torch rally” from Dharamsala which reached Chandigarh today.

“We are holding the rally not only to protest the killings in China but also to plead with Aamir Khan to keep away from the Olympic Torch and not hold it when it arrives in India. Aamir has been associated with human rights in Gujarat, why can’t he do the same with Tibet?” asked Tenzin Norsang, joint secretary of the organisation, in Chandigarh.

Aamir, who was shooting for Ghajini near Mumbai, could not be reached for comment.

But his office said Aamir “was busy with work and would not like to get involved in any political controversy”.

The actor had earlier courted controversy with political parties by openly coming out in support of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, which is against the Sardar Sarovar Dam, saying the Gujarat government should take care of those being displaced by the project. The BJP had then demanded Aamir apologise to the people of Gujarat for “opposing the project”, a charge the star has denied. Aamir’s Lagaan was set in the western state where water is scarce in many areas.

China’s showpiece event has already received a star snub with filmmaker Steven Spielberg withdrawing as artistic adviser to the Olympics. The celebrated director has accused China of not doing enough to pressure Sudan to end the civil war in Darfur. Hollywood stars such as Mia Farrow and Nobel laureates had pressed Spielberg to end his involvement with the Beijing show.

Asking Aamir to follow suit, Tibetan leaders said China would use the Olympics “to gain acceptance on the world stage and legitimise its illegal occupation of Tibet”. “The human rights situation in Tibet and China is worsening steadily. Yet the Chinese government continues to deceive the world by depicting Tibetans in its Olympics propaganda as happy and prosperous under Chinese rule,” said Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet.

The Tibetan protesters left Chandigarh in the evening for New Delhi where their torch will be handed over to their counterparts for the journey to San Francisco, the only US city where the Olympic flame will be taken.

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