Kailash-MansarovarYatris returns home after pilgrimage cut short

Inclement weather and damaged roads in TAR beat back pilgrimage before it even began

Gangtok, 24 Jun:

The overland Kailash-MansarovarYatra for the first two batches of the season has ended with the 91 pilgrims not being able to get across Nathula. After keeping the groups waiting and hoping, confirmation reportedly arrived today that at least these two groups will not be able to travel onwards into Tibetan Autonomous Region of China on their pilgrimage. They will now be returning home on Sunday, having enjoyed good hospitality in Sikkim, but refused their Yatra due to inclement weather on the other side of the border.

From information received from the STDC, both the batches are returning to New Delhi tomorrow. The STDC has arranged two AC buses from SNT to ferry the pilgrims till Bagdogra.

China has refusedentry to the first and second batches of 47 and 44 Indian pilgrims respectively on their scheduled travel to KailashMansarovar through the Nathula. Although no official word has arrived yet on why this has happened, it is reliably learnt that extensive damage to roads across Nathula in TAR due to rains and landslides convinced the Chinese authorities to stop travel for now.

The southwestern parts of China, including extensive stretches of Tibet which receive rains, have had a bad run with landslides this season. (turn to pg7 for report on one such devastating catastrophe)

The first batch of 47 pilgrims, who were stopped at the border from proceeding further, returned to Gangtok on yesterday and areboarded at Hotel Tibet here. Today, the pilgrims headed towards Namchiat around 10:15 a.mfor sight-seeing arranged by STDC which provided an AC bus from SNT for their convenience. They were due to return late evening and return home on Sunday.

The second batch comprising of 44 pilgrims were taken sightseeing to Nathula this morning by STDC, the closest they will be getting to TAR for now.

Meanwhile, media reports have quoted External Affairs Ministry spokesperson GopalBaglayasas confirming that “some difficulties were being experienced in the movement of pilgrims through Nathu La and that India is taking up the matter with China”.

This obviously did not go as planned.

The development has cast a shadow of uncertainty on the annual yatra as Chinese officials maintained that it would take some time to repair the roads and the Indians would not be able to make the pilgrimage any time soon.

"The pilgrims and the liaison officer were told that because of incessant rainfall the roads in the Chinese side had been washed away in major landslides. So they cannot proceed any further," a source informs.

The Chinese officials said they were concerned about the safety of the Indian pilgrims which is why they were stopped from proceeding further.