Security agencies in a tizzy as Tibetans march to Nathu La

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Gangtok, Mar 20 (UNI) Security arrangements have been tightened in Sikkim as 300 Tibetans from different parts of the North East today began their march to Nathu La from Salugura in Siliguri.

The marchers, led by the North East Tibetan Youth Congress (NETYC), would march right up to Nathu La, the nearest and easiest entry point to the troubled Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

''We hope to reach Rangpo by March 24, '' said Ugen Tsawang, spokesperson of the NETYC.

Rangpo is the border checkpost and entry to East and North Sikkim.

''From there we intend to march to Nathu La border depending upon permission. We are working on the permits. However, it's easier than done, '' Tswanag told UNI.

Senior state officials said the marchers could not be stopped entering the state if they possessed necessary permits.

Permits from the state police are required to reach up to Changu Lake. For entry to Nathu La, the Indian Army will have to be informed and a Restricted Area permit from the Union Government is required for foreigners.

State authorities had begun stringent checking at the 3rd mile checkpost along the Jawaharlal Nehru road leading to Changu Lake and Nathu La border.

Official sources said permits for an unspecified period will not be given to Tibetans or anybody having Tibetan background or carrying Tibetan flags or other appendages to go beyond the 3rd Mile checkpost, manned by Sikkim police.

Tour operators and drivers were being informed about the ban on Tibetans.

Police were also maintaining a close watch on the 400-odd Tibetans, settled at Sherathang and Kupup near the Nathu La border, to prevent a flare-up in the backdrop of Lhasa crackdown.

With the reopening of the border trade through the 14,400 feet pass for the past two years, Sikkim would definitely try to avert any embarrassment as the reopening of the trade closed since 1962 was being seen as a major renewal of bilateral ties and friendship between the two Asian giants, sources added.

The border trade for this year is scheduled to start from May 1 and the traders were already worried about the impact of the recent developments.

UNI BG SJC YA DB1912

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