Saturday, November 14, 2009
ILTA approaches Centre, Sikkim authorities for pilgrimage to Dzongu from Nov 19
GANGTOK, November 14: Though their maiden ‘Long March’ last year during the month of April was aborted due to politically laced hostilities, Lepchas from Kalimpong subdivision and other areas of Darjeeling district under the banner of ‘Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association’ (ILTA) are determined to reach the holy land of Dzongu in North Sikkim this time.
And this time, the pilgrims have taken a top down approach and have approached the Union Home Ministry, Tribals Affairs Ministry and All India Adivashi Vikash Parishad for the permission to take a three day ‘Pakram Takram’ (pilgrimage) to Dzongu, the last bastion of the indigenous Lepchas.
The ILTA has expressed its desire to march from Kalimpong to Dzongu from November 19 to 21.
We have also submitted our request and notified the Sikkim Government including the chief secretary, home secretary, North District administration and police along with the Kalimpong subdivision and Darjeeling district administration, said ILTA president Paval Shimik to media here.
The ILTA president asserted that the proposed tour is purely religious and is a pilgrimage by the Lepchas from Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. We want to reach to our holy place of Dzongu where we will perform our traditional prayers and other rituals, he said.
Well wishers of the Lepcha community will also be participating in this pilgrimage, said Shimik. He reiterated that the pilgrimage is a ‘pilgrimage’ with no iota of political contours.
Last time, the long march had several layers of political and activism colours and the marchers had themselves said that the pilgrimage was to ‘save their holy land’.
Underlining the importance of Dzongu for the Lepchas, Shimik compared Dzongu as the ‘Kashi’ and ‘Jerusalem’ for the Lepcha community. We will return back after offering our prayers to our guardian deities, he said.
The proposed pilgrimage is conducted under the umbrella of ILTA with participation and support of frontal organizations. The march towards
Dzongu will begin from Rangpo, it is informed.
The ILTA president expressed his hopes that the Lepchas of Sikkim will extend a warm welcome to their Lepchas brothers separated by geographical boundaries.
‘Welcome’ was missing during the 2008 bid by the Lepchas of Darjeeling region to pilgrimage to Dzongu and instead, the march of the 500 odd Lepchas had to be aborted at its midpoint in Dikchu in face of open hostilities.
The Lepchas had marched from Triveni, Kalimpong right up to Dikchu on the evening hours of April 15. Dikchu is the entry point to Dzongu and around 40 kms away from Namprikdang, the place where the pilgrims had resolved to perform pujas.
All along the way to Dikchu, the Lepchas had to face hostilities from the local people who termed their march as a politically sponsored march by the opposition political parties with the North Sikkim hydel debate reaching to a peak riding on the hunger strike by Affected Citizens of Teesta. The 'locals' also ensured that shops and accommodation facilities to the marchers were not made available.
The marchers had been escorted to Dikchu by a huge contingent of Sikkim Armed Police where a huge number of people from North Sikkim were positioned on the other side of the bridge. At Dikchu, a huge number of people from North Sikkim were positioned on the other side of the bridge with an intention to stop the marchers
Fearing a clash between the Darjeeling Lepchas and the local people,
Sikkim police and administration managed to convince the marchers to retreat.
After several discussions, the Lepchas were bundled into vehicles and escorted back to Rangpo border from where they left for their respective destinations.