DHARAMSHALA, November 10 – An unidentified Tibetan monk set himself ablaze at Boudhanath Buddhist stupa in central Kathmandu earlier today. The Tibetan monk is the second Tibetan exile in less than a week to resort to self immolation as a way of protest against China after 11 Tibetans inside Tibet, since March 2011, have burnt themselves in protest against China leading to the death of five.
Witnesses say the incident took place around 7 in the morning, a time when the stupa is usually crowded with Buddhist people circumambulating the holy shrine.
According to witnesses, the exile Tibetan monk, who is said to be around 30, wrapped his body in the Tibetan flag, doused his body in kerosene, chanted free-Tibet slogans and demanded return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet before setting his body ablaze. People nearby rushed to his side and put out the fire.
“At first I heard lots of screaming. As I rushed to the site, I saw the back of the monk was on fire and he was running around. After the fire got put off, he used a traditional Tibetan lamp and set himself ablaze before people rushed to put it off,” recalls Pema Ramla who was on her way to work when she witnessed the self-immolation by the monk.
The International Tibet Network cited a source saying the monk is safe but with burns on his left arm. The International Tibet Network says they are not sure if anyone had been able to capture pictures of the incident. “Publication of a recognizable photograph of the monk would amount to revealing his identity to the Nepalese police. Hence, the fear of exposing the monk’s identity seems to have prevented from publishing his photograph.”
His whereabouts and identity are being kept secret for safety reasons. Nepali Police who arrived on the scene much later have been questioning locals about the monk. Deputy Superintendent of Boudha, Shyam Gyawali has called Thursday’s self-immolation a staged protest and was quoted by AFP as saying, “The demonstrator lit himself while his companions stood by ready to extinguish the fire.” “There were friends with him who immediately put it out. We are trying to find them all,” added Gyawali.
Following the incident, the situation around the Boudhanath area grew tense with hordes of Nepal Police personnels gathering at the site, questioning locals and surveying the neighborhood. In their frantic search for the monk, many police personnels and intelligence officials made rounds of nearby hospitals. No photos have been released so far of the incident in fear of the monk’s identity being revealed.