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Founded: March 15 2002
Last updated: February 1, 2003

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Gaya: Fasting neo-Buddhists in custody Bodh Gaya, January 12, 2003 (PTI) - A section of neo-Buddhists sitting on a "fast-unto death" here protesting the alleged "pro-China" bias of Dalai Lama and 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinley were taken into custody last night even as the 28th Kalchakra puja began here today amidst tight security arrangements.

The nine-day puja festival, considered to be the most important ritual of Mahayana sect of Buddhism, opened with a sermon by Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to nearly 20,000 Buddhists.

Earlier, delegates from Vietnam, Tibet, China and Sri Lanka offered prayers for world peace and long life of the Dalai Lama.

Deputy Inspector General Of Police, Magadh Range, N C Dhondiyal told PTI the neo-Budhists, sitting on fast since Thursday, were taken into custody late last night and kept at Chandauti police station near here.

"There is no tension here on account of the agitation launched by a section of neo-Buddhists under the banner of Bodh Gaya Mahabodhi Vihar All India Action Committee against the puja and presence of the two spritual leaders," he said.

Security in the area had been stepped up following the presence of the Dalai Lama and the 17th Karmapa, he added.

120 officers, including the Deputy Superintendents of Police, 165 armed policemen, 275 constables, 42 women cops, besides a platoon of mounted police force and a sniffer dog squad have been pressed into service to guard the puja venue, Dhondiyal said.

The committee's national General Secretary Bhante Anand, accusing the police of "unnecessarily harassing" neo-Buddhists said, "the agitation against the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa will continue for maintaining a pro-China bias and desecration of the temple by followers of the two spiritual leaders who entered the temple with their shoes on".

Meanwhile, the Bihar government's decision not to send the holy relic of Lord Buddha to Bodh Gaya during the puja has disappointed a large number of monks and pilgrims.

Minister for Tourism Ashok Kumar Singh said the decision not to send the relic containing Buddha's ashes follows the risk involved in transportation.

The casket containing the ashes, with a copper punch marked coin and a tiny leaf made of gold, has been kept at the central hall of Patna Museum for public viewing.

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Texts and Translations © Peter G. Friedlander unless otherwise indicated.