Hundreds arrested as Olympic torch makes tense Indian passage

NEW DELHI, April 17, 2008 (AFP) – Hundreds of Tibetan demonstrators were arrested in India and neighbouring Nepal Thursday as thousands of police and soldiers defended the Beijing Olympic torch on a suffocating run through New Delhi. The heart of the Indian capital was sealed off for the most sensitive leg of the protest-hit global relay to date, with security personnel far outnumbering the schoolboys and the other few select onlookers allowed to watch.

India is home to 100,000 Tibetan refugees, including the Dalai Lama and radical youth groups, and authorities wanted to ensure that chaotic protests like those seen in Paris and London did not mar the event.

The scaled-back 2.3-kilometre (1.5-mile) relay lasted little more than 30 minutes, and there were no disruptions to the event itself.

Relay participants were tightly marshalled by tracksuited Chinese security guards, and allowed to run only a few metres each.

An estimated 16,000 police, soldiers and even elite commandos were deployed to throw up a huge security cordon around the central thoroughfare between the presidential palace and India Gate, two of New Delhi’s main landmarks.

“We have around 170 to 180 people in custody,” a senior police official told