statesman news service
Gangtok, 2 July
Kabi-Lungchok, the 13th century historic venue where the Treaty of Blood Brotherhood was executed bonding the indigenous Lepcha people with the Bhutias who came from Tibet via Chumbi Valley has turned into a virtual war-zone, as factions opposing and supporting the proposed beautification drive involving the spot have resorted to a war of words, extending to exchange of fists and blows.
Police personnel present at the spot to control the situation had to brandish their service pistols apparently to scare away the agitated crowd.
The crowd later dispersed amidst resistance.
The situation has taken a turn for the worse when both sides opposing and favouring the project were engaged in slanders.
Both sides have blamed each other for the ruckus and filed their own versions of the FIR with the Phodong police station, North Sikkim.
Today, the Rural Management & Development and the Ecclesiastical Affairs departments have organised a joint spot inspection involving both the parties in the wake of the raging controversy over the Rs 8.46 Crore Kabi-Lungchok sacred grove beautification project.
Members of both the factions reached the spot, advocating their versions for and against the said project, forcing the departmental officials to cancel the study.
Protestors, including locals, some Buddhist monks and community leaders, gathered at the gate leading to Kabi-Lungchok and started a demonstration.
Mr Tseten Tashi Bhutia, convenor of Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC), who led the protestors, said the project is poised to hurt the religious and historical sentiments of the Sikkimese people, in general, and the Bhutia and Lepcha communities, in particular.
He also said that the drive is being launched in violation of the ‘Places of Worship Act’ that prohibits reconstruction or developmental activities in sacred and historical places.
“Existence of the Bhutias and the Lepchas would be at stake if Kabi-Lungstok is attacked in any way. We would not tolerate such things. The project should be scrapped immediately,” he said.
Notably, the state notification issued in 1998 that sought to preserve places of worship, prohibits conversion, altercation, new construction of any places of worship.
The protestors claimed that the project implementing agency and the RMDD are flouting the said notification.
Later, an official of RMDD told the newsmen that a fresh DPR, incorporating necessary amendments, will be prepared and the Ecclesiastical department&’s permission will be sought before undertaking the said project.
Firm on going ahead with the project, the official, however, maintained that it has been postponed for now.
The State minister and Kabi-Lungchok MLA, Mr Thinley Tshering Bhutia who had also reached Kabi, however, stayed away from the protestors and situation turned worse immediately after he left the spot.
He had to face slogans, as he was boarding his official vehicle.
Later, terming today&’s incident as ‘unfortunate’, Mr Tseten Tashi Bhutia blamed the local MLA and RMDD officials for triggering tension.
Those supporting the project, however, criticised the protestors for imbuing political colours to a mere beautification project.