First Tibetan self-immolation in Dharamsala

A charred body was found near the Dalai Lama’s temple in Dharamsala on Saturday (July 29), with one eyewitness reporting seeing a man in flames near the pilgrimage route. It is the first self-immolation in Dharamsala, India, base of the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration.

The man has been identified as Dhondup (also known as Passang Dhondup) a wood painter at Norbulingka Institute, near Dharamsala. The 49-year old man was born in Gyantse (Chinese: Jiangzi) in Tibet and had arrived in India in 1991 and had been working in Norbulingka institute from 2012, according to Tibetan media.

The incident occurred in an area near Lhagyal Ri (on the pilgrimage route that goes around the Tibetan Temple and the residence of the Dalai Lama), a place where people gather for the incense-burning ceremony.

Dharamsala police found three bottles of kerosene or petrol close by the body, as well as a red bag containing 800 Rupees and a small Tibetan flag, together with a piece of paper with a phone number of a local Indian cable operator.

Dhondup’s body is carried away from the site of his self-immolation on a pilgrimage route.

Three witnesses were cited by the Dharamsala-based news portal phayul.com, including a Tibetan called Tenzin Dorjee, who reported seeing a man in flames in the area and went to call for help.

Another eyewitness cited, Bhushi, is a resident of the elderly people’s home next to the pilgrimage route. She said she heard the sound of something burning, and then heard someone shouting “Long live the Dalai Lama”.

A local Indian police official has said that the final report would be confirmed once the post-mortem is done and till then ‘nothing could be ruled out’, according to Phayul.

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