Massive security for Torch relay; actual time still a mystery

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New Delhi, Apr 16 (UNI) Several security agencies working under the Union Home Ministry have thrown a massive security blanket in and around Rajpath to guard against the possibilities of the Olympic Torch relay being disrupted by Tibetan or human rights groups tomorrow.

Though the official programme of the Torch relay has not been announced as yet Delhi Traffic Police has warned of ''huge traffic pile ups.'' ''The security arrangements are on the lines of Republic Day celebrations. But while on Republic Day, it is a holiday, tomorrow is a working day,'' said Jt Commissioner of Police (Traffic) S N Srivastava.

Traffic restrictions will come into force from 1400 hrs. The diversions will affect traffic movement as far away as Aurobindo Chowk Mathura Road and Mother Teresa Crescent.

The restrictions are expected for upto four hours, the official added.

Taking lessons from the disruption of the relay in Paris and London where the organisers were forced to put out the Torch, a multi-layered security cage has been thrown around the area.

A mixed team of NSG's Black Cat commandos and Delhi Police will form the core layer of the security. The CRP, ITBP and Delhi Armed Police will cordon off an area of 300 metres around the main event venue.

While Tibetan refugees have been allowed to hold a parallel Torch relay near Jantar Mantar, they will not be allowed ''at any cost'' to breach the Delhi Police-CRP joint cordon near Jantar Mantar. They plan to hold their version of the relay from Samta Sthal to Jantar Mantar.

''So far their route plan has not been approved,'' said Srivastava but added that arrangements will be made to deal with traffic management near the parallel rally site. In view of the threat from Tibetan protestors to the Olympic flame, heavy deployment of police and security personnel have been made and all the buildings on the route of the torch relay route would be made out of bound for visitors.

The capital would be converted into a virtual fortress with all the important buildings along the 3.5 km torch relay route, from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, would be closed for visitors tomorrow between 1300 hrs and 1800 hrs.

In order to ensure foolproof security arrangements and strict access control, instructions have been issued not to allow any visitor to enter government buildings overlooking Rajpath which include North Block, South Block, Krishi Bhavan, Shastri Bhavan, National Archive, National Museum, Vigyan Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan, Udyog Bhavan, Sena and Vayu Sena Bhavan and Dalhousie Road hutments.

The doors and windows of all these buildings would remain closed and security check of these buildings would be undertaken.

Interestingly, so far there have been conflicting versions on the actual timing of the relay. There also had been different statements on the actual time of the Torch reaching New Delhi from Islamabad.

But officials said the Torh would be brought to the main city from the IGI airport through NH 8.

The Tibetan government in Exile have maintained that it was against the disruption of the Torch relay. But at the same time it clarified that some people (the protestors)did not agree with their stand. ''Those disrupting the relay do not have our support. But people are free not to agree with our stand in a democratic society,'' Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile Prof Samdhong Rinpoche said here on last Thursday.

India on Friday last had conveyed to China that it will not stop the demonstrators by the Tibetans in this country but assured that the protestors would not be allowed to break the law.

New Delhi also conveyed to Beijing that the security of the Olympic Torch relay in India was its responsibility and the government would fully take care of that aspect.

''We have told the Chinense that India is a democracy and the people have a right to demonstrate in this country. Such demonstrations (by the Tibetans) cannot be stopped,'' top diplomatic sources said here.

However, they asserted that the protestors would not be allowed to break the law.

About the safety of the Olympic Torch in India, the sources said the security of the flame was responsibility of the Government of India.

''In India, it is our responsibility. We will take care of that.'' ''That doesn't mean we won't consult the Chinese. They (Chinese) also accept that it is our responsibility,'' the sources said.


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