Sikkim Simmers Over Centre's Move to Open 'Sacred' Peak of Kanchenjunga for Treks
The Narendra Modi government has lifted restrictions – for the first time – on foreigners taking up mountaineering expeditions to 24 peaks in Sikkim, including Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak.
As per a notification issued by the foreigners’ division of the ministry of home affairs (MHA) on August 13, India has opened to foreign nationals 137 Himalayan peaks straddling Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, besides Sikkim.
It said the proposal (from the ministry of tourism) “was under consideration of the government” for some time. Under the new rules, a foreign national will no longer need permission from the MHA and the ministry of defence (MoD) to climb these mountains, and can now directly apply to the Indian Mountaineering Association (IMA) for it. That is if they apply for a mountaineering visa (MV) to enter the country.
In New Delhi, minister of tourism Prahlad Patel called the MHA nod to his ministry’s pending request a “historic step” to boost earnings through adventure tourism.
However, in far away Sikkim, people are in shock.
“All the mountains of the state, especially the Kanchenjunga, are considered sacred by the Bhutias, Lepchas, Buddhists, by the people of Sikkim. We believe that our deities reside in these mountains. We worship Kanchenjunga as our resident god, our protector. Most hill people consider many things of nature as sacred, we do it too. So we are all understandably upset. We don’t climb Kanchenjunga, not from the Sikkim side,” Tseten Tashi Bhutia, convenor, Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC), told The Wire.