(TibetanReview.net, Dec26, 2016) – Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir has said Dec 25 that she was in favour of starting the Kailash-Manasarovar pilgrimage, undertaken annually by Indians, from Leh, capital of the state’s Ladakh region. China, in whose occupied territory of Tibet the pilgrimage sites are located, has in the past, refused to respond positively to Indian requests for the opening of this so much more convenient and speedy traditional route.
“I am in favour of opening of more routes. I strongly favour starting of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra through Leh so that the area gets a tourist and economic boost,” dnaindia.com Dec 25 quoted Mufti saying.
Hindus believe Mount Kailash in remote western Tibet’s Ngari region to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Tibetan Buddhists and Bonpos also consider the area sacred. Pilgrims perform parikrama (circumambulation) of Mount Kailash. En route is the Manasarovar Lake in which they take a dip to receive its blessing.
Currently Indian pilgrims, shortlisted annually by lot drawing, take two routes—Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand and Nathu La in Sikkim. Both involve trekking at altitudes of up to 19,500 feet in inhospitable conditions, although the Sikkim route is a bit less arduous but much longer. On the other hand, Demchok, in the Leh district, was the traditional starting point when Tibet was free and Indian pilgrims did not even need visas to undertake the pilgrimage.
Following its annexation by China, the Chinese government closed this route forever.
The report noted that the Ladakhi people had been demanding the opening of the Leh-Demchok-Manasarovar route, which is the shortest and safest, hoping it will bring them economic prosperity as well.
The report said a memorandum presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 by former Chief Executive Councilor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, had said, “From here, pilgrims can make the trek in two days. This would also give a much-needed fillip to the local economy.”
The report cited Nawang Rigzin Jora, who represents the Leh constituency in Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, as saying India had taken up the matter with China from time to time, but the latter was reluctant.
He has suggested that frequent border incursions from the Chinese across the Line of Actual Control and the Ladakhis being big followers of the Dalai Lama as possible reasons for China’s refusal to open this route. A stronger reason might well be China’s support for Pakistan’s position on Jammu and Kashmir being a disputed territory.
Jora has said there is a road up to the Kailash-Manasarovar right from Leh. “Safest route is through Leh. You can fly to Leh, take one or two days to acclimatize and then drive up to Kailash Manasarovar,” he was quoted as saying.