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Lepchas to walk to ‘holy’ land

Darjeeling, April 13: About 500 Lepchas from Darjeeling and Sikkim will march 150km to Dzongu from Tribeni to protest against the setting up of hydel power projects in the protected area.

The weeklong march from Tribeni, the confluence of the Teesta and the Rangit, will start tomorrow. The Himalayan state is setting up six hydel projects along the Kanka and Teesta rivers in North Sikkim’s Dzongu, considered holy by the Lepchas.

The protesters have accused the Pawan Chamling government of not only “playing with the sentiments of the community” but also violating the Sikkim government extraordinary gazette notification (No 500, dated December 15, 2006) which calls for protection of the area.

“Despite protests, the Sikkim government is determined to go ahead with the projects. The march is aimed at mobilising public support because the government is playing with the sentiments of the community,” said Samden Foning Lepcha, general secretary, Darjeeling Lepcha Youth Association (DLYA), one of the organisers of the march.

The marchers will be carrying the traditional achong chee (a brew) to be offered to Rongyong and Rongnyu (male and female personifications of the Teesta) on April 18.

“We are expecting about 500 people to turn up for the march. We have sought permission from the Sikkim government and the Sikkim police are expected to escort us to our destination,” said Dorjee Lepcha, the president of the Rong Ong Prongzom, another organiser, in Kalimpong.

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