Lepchas pilgrimage aborted midway

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Gangtok, Apr 16 (UNI) A pilgrimage of 500 odd Lepchas from Darjeeling to Dzongu in North Sikkim was today aborted midway at Dikchu in east Sikkim fearing hostility by local Lepchas.

The Lepchas started their journey from Triveni in Darjeeling and reached Dikchu, the main entry point to Dzongu, yesterday and were obstructed by the locals, who termed the pilgrimage ' political'.

All shops and places of accomodation were closed and the pilgrims were escorted to Dikchu by a huge contingent of the Sikkim Armed Police.

Sources said hundreds of Lepchas from Dzongu camped at Namprikdang to stop the marchers from Darjeeling.

After police intervention, the Lepchas were escorted back to the Rangpo border, from where they left for their respective destinations.

''We were ready to march up to our holy land but the administration hoodwinked us to return,'' said Dorjee T Lepcha, president of Kalimpong Lepcha Youth Association at Rangpo border.

''We retreated because we did not want clashes with our Lepcha brothers,'' he added.

The local Lepchas protested the marchers from Darjeeling by throwing empty bottles on them and denied them water and other refreshmnents at all shops.

Sikkim DIG (Range) Akshay Sachdeva said Dzongu is a protected area and permits are required from the North District Collectorate, but the pilgrims had no permits.

Thousands of people from Dzongu had requested the North DC, saying the marchers were coming for political purposes and were sponsored by the Opposition parties, Mr Sachdeva said.

The Sikkim government had already termed the pilgrimage tour as being backed by vested interests against the developmental projects.

UNI BG PP SBC HT1724

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