Dharamshala/Shimla/Varanasi, Aug 9: The whole world was watching with reverence at China's Olympics opening ceremony... the flash of fireworks, the spectacular drum rhytm and applaudig their country's contingent...
Here in small parts of India, hundreds of exiled Tibetans held a candlelight vigil in Dharamsala to protest the repressions of their fellow countrymen in Tibet. In stark contrast to the glitzy pyrotechnics in Beijing, the mood in Dharamsala was sombre as Buddhist monks, nuns and exiled Tibetans wore black headbands and shut their mouths in silence to mourn the killings of Tibetans in Lhasa on March 10, the Uprising Day of Tibetans.
While drums thundered, strobe lights flickered and 14,000 performers poured through the Bird's Nest stadium in a dazzling extravaganza with the Games' motto 'One World One Dream' in Beijing --- in Dharamsala the motto was "One World One Dream Free Tibet".
The Olympic spotlight has cast a harsh glare on the vast Asian nation, bringing the unrest in its Tibetan region to a wide audience and showing that China's leadership is not ready to brook any internal dissent.
The Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, Sam Dong Rinpoche hoped China's new found openness to the outside world would also bode well for the future of Tibetans.
"People of China (have) every right to host (the Games/Olympics) because these people, the majority (of them) are not exposed to such openness and such ceremonies and they should enjoy this kind of ceremony but at the same time what we (are) worried about is that a lot of people are still subject to human rights violations and subject to unbearable torture and repressive measures," a news agency quoted Rinpoche as saying.
Groups campaigning for an independent Tibet have said the Beijing Olympics should be an opportunity to voice criticism of Chinese policy.
While around 80 world leaders watched the opening ceremony, Tibetan sympathizers from 20 different countries sat in solidarity with the exiled Tibetans in Dharamsala.
Kim Ki Yang, a visitor from South Korea said she fully understood the pain of the exiled Tibetan as her own country had been forcefully occupied by Japan.
"We are here to support the Tibetan freedom movement because Korea was invaded by Japan. We experienced the colonization. That is why most Koreans know the sufferings of being ruled by force. Many Koreans were killed by Japanese, same thing, same dirty history repeats itself again and again. That is why I support the Tibetan independence," Kim said.
Michael, a tourist from Germany said he wanted to lend support to the Tibetans in whatever way it was possible.
"I am here to make a contribution for peace, and for freedom of the Tibetans both inside and outside occupied Tibet," Michael said.
Protesters took out similar marches in many other cities of the country. Scores of Tibetans participated in a candlelight procession in Shimla.
In Varanasi, the protesters took out a protest march with their mouths covered with black ribbons. They also sported black dress to convey their protest against the Games.
China has controlled Tibet since People's Liberation Army troops marched into the region in 1950 and Beijing considers Tibet as an integral part of its territory. Critics accuse China of repressing Tibetans' religious aspirations.
China says it has spent billions of dollars developing the impoverished Himalayan region, and raised its living standards.