The first batch of pilgrims who arrived on June 15 had to return to Gangtok. According to sources, though there has been no official confirmation, the Sikkim leg of the Kailash Mansaravor Yatra has been called off. Both the batches might return to New Delhi.
According to sources in Sikkim, the centre has asked the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation or STDC, the nodal agency in Sikkim for the pilgrimage, to send back all the pilgrims to New Delhi, indicating that the Sikkim leg of the yatra has been called off.
"The first batch has been brought back. We have made arrangement for lodging, and our officials are in touch with the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs). We are ready if required to take them down to Siliguri and fly them out to Delhi," STDC Chief Executive Officer Suman Thapa told reporters in Gangtok.
However, even before the natural calamity struck China, it had refused to open the gates for devotees, who had to return to Sherthang after waiting for a week. Sources said inclement weather on the Chinese side may be one of the reasons for China's refusal to allow the pilgrims. The second batch of pilgrims has been held up in Gangtok. Inclement weather on the Chinese side may be one of the reasons for refusal by the Chinese.
"Yes, there are some difficulties being experienced in movement of pilgrims via Nathu La. The matter is being discussed with the Chinese side," MEA Spokesperson Gopal Baglay said. Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has briefed Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi, sources in the chief minister's office said.
"We were supposed to cross over on June 20, but they did not open the gate. We waited two more days before we were brought down. The government has made all arrangements but now it is clear we cannot go," a pilgrim from Hyderabad identified by her first name Jaya told NDTV on phone from Gangtok.
"There is an option to go through the traditional route via Pithoragarh in Uttrakhand, but that's a difficult route. We have been assured refund," she said.
Hundreds of Indian pilgrims undertake the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra every year. The Nathu La route, which was opened to pilgrims in 2015, passes through China (Tibet region). Till then, pilgrims had to take the Lipulekh Pass route in Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh, which meant a long and tiring journey to Mount Kailash.