Lepcha march

The Telegraph

Gangtok, Nov. 18: The Kalimpong-based Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association will begin its second march to Dzongu in North Sikkim tomorrow after last year’s foiled attempt. The ILTA is determined to reach the destination to offer prayers at the holy site.

In April 2008, the ILTA had to return from Dikchu, the entry point to Dzongu, in the face of hostilities. The 500-odd marchers were escorted back by Sikkim armed police after a huge crowd of local people had set up a blockade in Dikchu.

This time, the ILTA claims to have secured the permission of the Union home and tribal affairs ministries for the pakram takram or pilgrimage to Dzongu. “We have submitted our requests to the Sikkim chief secretary, home secretary, North district administration. We plan to complete the pilgrimage between November 19 and 21,” said Paval Shimik, the ILTA president. “Dzongu is like Varanasi and Jerusalem to us. We will return after offering prayers to our guardian deities there.”

During last year’s stand-off, the Sikkim police managed to convince the Lepchas to call off the last leg of the march, fearing violence. The marchers were driven back to the Rangpo border.

This time, too, the people of North Sikkim have opposed the march. Dzongu MLA Sonam Gyatso Lepcha described the march as an “outside interference” in local affairs. “The pilgrimage is a ploy and is politically motivated,” he said.

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