New Delhi, March 27 –Tibetan activists are being randomly rounded up on “preventive measures” in the Indian Capital on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit.

Around 5.30pm, well-known Tibetan writer, poet and activist Tenzin Tsundue was arrested by policemen in plainclothes from India Habitat Centre, where he was in the middle of an academic discussion on Tibet and India. Seven other activists were also arrested under preventive sections in separate incidents in the New Delhi area. Delhi Police officials said Tsundue had been arrested under preventive sections for his “notorious activities in Bangalore” where he had staged a protest during the Chinese premier’s visit in 2005.

Dhardon Sharling, communications officer for the Tibetan Women’s Association who had organized the talk, said, “We had just taken a tea break when some men forcibly picked up Tenzin Tsundue from the lobby of the hall. We pleaded with the police officers to let him answer the questions posed to him during the talk, then take him away. However, they roughly pushed us away. The talk was planned three weeks ago and was in conformity with Indian laws.”

Tibetan MP Youdon Aukhatsang said, “As a preventive measure, police are arresting Tibetan activists. They have just arrested two Tibetans after they held a press conference at the Press Club to issue an appeal of religious leaders on the situation inside Tibet.”

Areas with large Tibetan settlements like Majnu ka Tila, Ambedkar Bhawan and Buddh Vihar Tibetan Market witnessed a clampdown with cops disallowing students, working professionals and tourists to move about freely in the city while citing “apprehension for violence”. Though the section 144 CrPC had been imposed only in certain parts of central Delhi, cops restricted the movements of Tibetans all over Delhi.

Special commissioner of police (law and order) Dharmendra Kumar said, “We had rejected the application of Tibetan activists to hold protests as there are international security concerns. However, when they continued to protest on Monday, we allowed them to sit at Jantar Mantar. But as they turned violent and tried to run towards Parliament, we had to deploy a massive force to contain them and finally arrest 153 of them under preventive sections. We have imposed the Foreigners Act in the city now to restrict the movement of those Tibetans who have come to the city to protest. If they fail to follow the directions, we will take further legal action.”

But residents of these areas complained that they were stopped from going to work, attending college and even going out for regular household activities like buying groceries. “No autos were allowed to carry us, police shooed them away. My friend works in Gurgaon but was not allowed to report to work. Her boss refused to believe her. Police should allow routine facilities like going to hospitals and colleges,” said Tenzin Yangki, a student living in Majnu ka Tila.

The situation was worse at the Tibetan SOS Youth Hostel in Rohini Sector 14 where around 240 Tibetan students are housed. “We have been locked up in the hostel since morning. Many of us have missed our exams and project submission deadlines. We pleaded with police that some of us have exams at 9am but they finally allowed some of us to go to college at 10am. By then, we had already missed the exam. The rest of us have remained confined to the hostel all day and have been told by police not to interact with media,” said Palden Sonam.

Early in the day, two Tibetan volunteers of the New Delhi based Indo-Tibet Co-ordination Office was detained from the Press Club. The two were helping organize a press conference for ITCO.

Core Group for Tibetan Cause, the coordinator umbrella organisation of Tibet support groups in India strongly condemned the random mass arrests calling it “undemocratic and illegal” on the part of the agencies of the Indian government.

“We call upon all democracy loving individuals and groups of India to advise the policy makers of the Government of India to permit the Tibetan refugee community to express their opinion in a democratic and peaceful manner,” the group said in a release today.

Outside Tibetan residential areas in New Delhi, Rapid Action Forces armed in full riot gear have been deployed in large numbers.

The gates to Majnu-ka-Tilla, a popular Tibetan residential area as well as the Tibetan Youth Hostel in Rohini, are closed while police are keeping a strict watch on every movement.

The heightened security measure comes a day after 27 year old Jamphel Yeshi set his body on fire in an apparent protest against China’s continued occupation of Tibet. Jamphel Yeshi continues to be in a serious condition and has been shifted to another ward in the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital