Gangtok, 10 Aug:

Indian and Chinese soldiers have been in an entrenched standoff at Doklam in Bhutan off the Sikkim border for close to two months now. With two armies standing eyeball to eyeball on a contested tract makes for a tense situation, the situation on ground no worse or better than what it was when the situation first set in. But that is not what media reports would have one believe with reheated updates being presented as fresh developments.

A similar news-cycle played out over the past two days with national news platforms “reporting” that the army was evacuating civilians from the border village of Gnathang near Dokala, the pass from which the Doklam area is accessed.

Officials across the board – from civilian authorities to senior army officials posted here and in the know - have denied any such move.

The highly placed army source categorically denied that army was evacuating villagers from Gnathang. Speaking to SummitTimes late this evening, the officer reiterated that the Army has not issued any such order.

The only “advice” the army had made to people residing in the border villages along this sector, he said, was to the village heads who were suggested to keep their valuables in safe custody.

DT Lepcha, the MLA in whose constituency the border villages of East Sikkim fall, and is also a senior Minister of Sikkim Government, has also denied the news of evacuation of civilians from border villages.

Clearly, if civilians have to be evacuated, even though that does not necessarily happen even in actively hostile borders like the one with Pakistan in J&K, civilian authorities will have to brought into confidence and their assistance sought.

When contacted, District Collector-East, Prabhakar Verma, told SummitTimes that he has no such information about any plan to evacuate civilian from the border villages.

Ditto with Sikkim Police which has a checkpost at Sherathang near the border.

While it is true that there is increased troop movement in the area, that is to be expected for a sector which has been engaged in a tiring standoff with no developments either way for nearly two months now.

Meanwhile, Army sources also inform that increased troop movement is also routine for this time of the year when the forces carry out elaborate annual exercises of its artillery and other divisions at firing ranges in East and North Sikkim.

While this exercise usually takes place in September after the monsoons, preparations begin in advance and this exercise has also been brought forward by a few weeks this year.