China Blocks Thousands of Hindus From Tibet Pilgrimage

May 21, 2008


Source: The New York Times

The Chinese government is refusing to issue visas to Hindus trying to make the traditional summer pilgrimage to what they hold to be the home of Lord Shiva in Tibet, forcing thousands to delay or cancel the trip.

Starting in June, Hindus from Nepal and India embark on a multiweek journey to the 22,000-foot Mount Kailash in the Himalayas and nearby Lake Mapam Yutso, known in India as Lake Mansarovar. The trip, a once-in-a-lifetime event for most who make it, includes treacherous off-road drives and several days of arduous trekking, and is believed to bring the traveler closer to the divine.

This year, though, the Chinese government is refusing to grant any visas for travel to the Tibetan sites from Nepal, tour operators in Nepal say. India’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the Chinese government had cited unspecified “domestic reasons.”

At the same time, Beijing has retracted permission previously granted to Indian pilgrims who were planning to make the trip in early June. The Olympic torch is scheduled to go through Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, on June 20.