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Centre�s decision to open Kanchenjunga for climbers opposed

By A correspondent

GANGTOK, Aug 22 - The Union Home Ministry�s decision to allow expeditions to Mount Kanchenjunga has met with opposition in Sikkim. Mount Kanchenjunga is among 137 mountain peaks, which have been opened up for expeditions.

�We condemn this move and demand immediate withdrawal of the notification as it has hurt our sentiments since it is not just a peak but our guardian deity,� said Tseten Tashi Bhutia, convener of the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee.

The previous SDF Government in Sikkim had banned expeditions to Kanchenjunga and seven other �sacred� peaks in 2000 following demands to protect the �sanctity� of the mountain. The State Government had taken the decision showing respect to the religious sensitivities of the people who regard the mountain as a deity.

Conceding to the demand for opening up more mountain peaks for mountaineering and trekking, the Home Ministry recently announced that 137 mountain peaks located in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim would be opened for foreigners who want to obtain mountaineering visa (MX) for climbing/trekking these peaks.

The decision has been lauded by the adventure travel industry. Kanchenjunga, which straddles the border between India and Nepal, is viewed by the Sikkimese as both a god and the abode of gods. The legendary Yeti, called Nee-guide in Sikkim, is believed to roam on its slopes.

A controversy erupted in April 2000 when the State Government allowed an Austrian team to attempt the near-vertical trek up the 8,598-metre (28,208 ft) peak in exchange for $20,000. The team, led by climber Willie Bauer, tried to assuage Buddhist feelings by agreeing to turn back 10 metres short of the top.

Kanchenjunga � which is the third highest in the world after Mount Everest and K2 � was first scaled by the Briton, Charles Evans, from the Nepal side in 1953. A ban on climbing by foreigners was imposed in 1955.

Recently, the UNESCO had declared the Kanchenjunga National Park as a World Heritage Site, stating that �mythological stories are associated with this mountain and with a great number of natural elements (caves, rivers, lakes, etc.) that are the object of worship for the indigenous people of Sikkim. The sacred meaning of these stories and practices has been integrated with Buddhist beliefs and constitutes the basis for Sikkimese identity.�

The Pang Lhabsol festival is also held annually in Sikkim to worship the �sacred� mountain.

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Centre�s decision to open Kanchenjunga for climbers opposed

GANGTOK, Aug 22 - The Union Home Ministry�s decision to allow expeditions to Mount Kanchenjunga has met with opposition in Sikkim. Mount Kanchenjunga is among 137 mountain peaks, which have been opened up for expeditions.

�We condemn this move and demand immediate withdrawal of the notification as it has hurt our sentiments since it is not just a peak but our guardian deity,� said Tseten Tashi Bhutia, convener of the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee.

The previous SDF Government in Sikkim had banned expeditions to Kanchenjunga and seven other �sacred� peaks in 2000 following demands to protect the �sanctity� of the mountain. The State Government had taken the decision showing respect to the religious sensitivities of the people who regard the mountain as a deity.

Conceding to the demand for opening up more mountain peaks for mountaineering and trekking, the Home Ministry recently announced that 137 mountain peaks located in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim would be opened for foreigners who want to obtain mountaineering visa (MX) for climbing/trekking these peaks.

The decision has been lauded by the adventure travel industry. Kanchenjunga, which straddles the border between India and Nepal, is viewed by the Sikkimese as both a god and the abode of gods. The legendary Yeti, called Nee-guide in Sikkim, is believed to roam on its slopes.

A controversy erupted in April 2000 when the State Government allowed an Austrian team to attempt the near-vertical trek up the 8,598-metre (28,208 ft) peak in exchange for $20,000. The team, led by climber Willie Bauer, tried to assuage Buddhist feelings by agreeing to turn back 10 metres short of the top.

Kanchenjunga � which is the third highest in the world after Mount Everest and K2 � was first scaled by the Briton, Charles Evans, from the Nepal side in 1953. A ban on climbing by foreigners was imposed in 1955.

Recently, the UNESCO had declared the Kanchenjunga National Park as a World Heritage Site, stating that �mythological stories are associated with this mountain and with a great number of natural elements (caves, rivers, lakes, etc.) that are the object of worship for the indigenous people of Sikkim. The sacred meaning of these stories and practices has been integrated with Buddhist beliefs and constitutes the basis for Sikkimese identity.�

The Pang Lhabsol festival is also held annually in Sikkim to worship the �sacred� mountain.