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

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Record 200,000 people attend Buddhist festival in India AFP January 17 2003 A record 200,000 people from across the globe are attending a Buddhist festival in eastern India, despite reports of death threats to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, officials said today. The 10-day Kalachakra puja, a Tibetan tantric ritual, was opened on Sunday by the Dalai Lama in the Buddhist holy city of Bodhgaya in Bihar state.

Security forces have sealed off Bodhgaya, a normally quiet town where the Buddha attained enlightenment two and a half millennia ago, after militants linked to China, which has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since 1951, reportedly issued death threats against the Dalai Lama.

Police said today that two youths, one Nepalese and another Tibetan, were arrested Tuesday at the festival in an inebriated condition and carrying no identification documents.

"The arrested youths were drunk and no papers of identification were found on them, making them a suspect," a senior official told AFP.

The Nepalese youth has given his name simply as Jimmy, while the Tibetan has identified himself as Midoo Jang, police said.

Both have claimed to be refugees.

"The two have no documentary proof of the cause of their presence in Bodhgaya nor have they the papers to support their refugee status," a police official said, adding that police were taking no chances in view of the death threats made against the Dalai Lama.

The spiritual leader is attending his 29th Kalachakra puja, which is observed by the Mahayana branch of Buddhism.

"The ritual is essentially aimed at peace and global welfare through a process of tantric initiations," a Tibetan monk said.

The festival, normally held annually, has previously been organised in Europe, the United States and Australia.

The Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel peace prize for his non-violent opposition to Beijing, has been met with protests from some Buddhists who accuse him either of being too soft on China or inconsiderate of India, where he has been based since 1959.

Tibetans have been fighting for autonomy from China, which has ruled Tibet since 1951.

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