Gangtok, 23 Jun:

The first batch of 47 pilgrims headed for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) through Sikkim was flagged off from Gangtok on 16 Jun accompanied by a Liaison Officer and five supporting staff (local).

A week since, they are yet to cross over into TAR and begin their journey. And now, even the second batch of yatris have arrived in Sikkim even as the first group has come down from the acclimatization centre at Sherathang awaiting word on when they could continue their journey.

The yatris were stationed at Acclimatization Centers for two days i.e. 16 &17 Jun at 15th Mile and 17th Mile and for two days i.e. 18 and 19 Jun at Sherathang. The next day, on proceeding towards Nathu La, they were denied access due to landslide and road block in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. However the matter was never made official by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Meanwhile, concerned officials in Sikkim refuse to come on record. The Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) is providing the logistical support and facilities for the Yatra including looking after their meals, lodging and transportation, but since the matter rests in the Ministry of External Affairs jurisdiction, they are unwilling to comment on the reason for the modification in the scheduled pilgrimage.

That state they are not authorized to divulge any information without any official announcement or information from the MEA.

The MEA organizes the Mansarovar Yatra during June to September through two routes Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand) and Nathu La (Sikkim). A total of 350 yatris had registered for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2017 via Nathu La route which is to be completed in 7 batches.

The first batch returned this morning at around 10:45 a.m and are currently boarded at Hotel Tibet here.

According to one of the yatris from the first batch, Amit Chandan, a resident of Jammu, who is accompanying his mother on the pilgrimage, they had to lodge at Sherathang for two and half days and one night in 17th Mile, waiting for any order(s) or information from the MEA for the continuation of their pilgrimage.

Regardless of this, he stated that the accommodation and the basic amenities provided have been excellent and the yatris are still hopeful that they will eventually get to complete the pilgrimage.

The second batch comprising of 44 yatris reached Gangtok on 20 Jun and are boarded at Hotel Mayur. A couple from Karnataka stated that they have not received any information regarding the commencement of their pilgrimage from the MEA.

However the yatris have not lost their hope and are already involved in exploring the nearby areas for sightseeing. The Liaison Officers have also not received any official order(s) or information from the MEA.