India’s top mountaineering authority the Indian Mountaineering Foundation said it will not issue permits to scale the Kanchenjunga, which is the third highest peak in the world at 8,568 metres, and many other peaks that are considered to be hallowed by locals, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
“The governing council of Indian Mountaineering Foundation has taken a decision not to issue any permit to [scale] the peaks in Sikkim which are under the category of sacred peaks, including Kanchenjunga, despite they now being in the open area,” the newspaper quoted the foundation’s President Colonel [retired] HS Chauhan as saying. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation, which is affiliated with the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, is the regulatory authority for national and international climbing and mountaineering in the country.
This came a week after the Union Home ministry lifted an 18-year-old ban on scaling the range by adding it to the “open area”, which allows mountaineers from India and abroad to scale the peak after acquiring permission from the mountaineering authority. Trekkers would previously approach the peak only from Nepal.
The home ministry decided to open 137 peaks in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand for promotion of adventure sports. Access to open peaks is given by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, and for the restricted peaks the foundation gets permission from the defence ministry for Indian citizens. For foreign nationals, permission is obtained from both the defence and home ministries.
The central government order had made locals upset, after which Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang asked the home ministry to de-list 14 “sacred peaks” in the state, news website Time8 reported.
Last week, former Indian footballer and Hamro Sikkim Party leader Bhaichung Bhatia met Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to request him not to open the peaks for expedition. “Met Mr Kiren Rijiju Ji in his office today to request on Mt Kanchenjunga and other peaks of Sikkim not to be opened for expedition since it has religious sentiment of people of Sikkim and it’s protected and worshiped as a deity,” Bhutia had tweeted.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Sikkim unit also protested against the central government’s decision last week, saying it was a blatant disregard of the wishes of the Sikkimese people, according to Time8. The right-wing party’s spokesperson demanded the state government immediately ask the Centre to cancel the order.
In 2001, Sikkim had passed an order that Kanchenjunga and a few other peaks could not be scaled under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991.