Fatal self-immolation takes place among Tibetan community in Dharamsala

Saturday, 29 July 2017

A self-immolation took place today at around 3 pm (local time) in Dharamsala, India. Free Tibet is working to verify the identity of the self-immolator, who died from their injuries (1).

The self-immolation took place at a roadside not far from the Dalai Lama's temple. An eyewitness who arrived at the scene at 3:10 pm recounted that they saw the self-immolator on their knees and engulfed in flames that were out of control.

The body of the self-immolator was retrieved by locals and police and carried away. Indian intelligence said he was between 25 and 35 years old. His body has been taken to hospital for further investigation.

Two empty bottles of kerosene or petrol were found at the site of the self-immolation. Two bottle caps were found on a nearby rock and a Tibetan national flag was found in a bag near the body.

At least nine self-immolation protests have taken place outside Tibet since 1998, including the fatal self-immolation of 19-year-old student Tenzin Choeying earlier this month. Tenzin Choeying died in hospital last Saturday, eight days after setting himself on fire at the Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India (2).

This is the first self-immolation to have taken place in Dharamsala, the residence of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan government in exile.

Almost 150 Tibetans have set themselves alight inside Tibet, with the most recent protest taking place in May 2017 (3).

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“Last week, Tibetans mourned the death of Tenzin Choeying, who gave his life in the hope that Tibet might one day be free. This week has seen another death from a self-immolation in the very heart of the Tibetan community in India. While we should not yet speculate on the reasons for this latest self-immolation, the increase in these protests this year, both in India and in Tibet, is an unavoidable fact. As is the pain that all Tibetans continue to endure on both sides of the border. Tibetans in India live in exile, unable to return to their own country. Tibetans inside Tibet live under a brutal occupation, facing repression and abuse on a daily basis. It is this pain, this longing for their own country to once again be free, that drives these self-immolations, and only real freedom can bring them to a halt.”

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Notes to editors

1. For photos from the aftermath of the protest, please contact Free Tibet’s John Jones

2. For further information see: https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/tibetan-student-dies-following-self-immolation-protest  

3. The first self-immolation in Tibet took place in 2009. There were no further self-immolations until March 2011, with the peak number of self-immolations (83 confirmed cases) taking place in 2012. For a full list of self-immolation protesters, see: http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet