THE DALAI Lama’s much-anticipated visit to Tawang on Tuesday had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather. While he is now set to reach Tawang on Friday, his visit to Lumla may be cancelled.
The Tibetan spiritual leader was supposed to arrive in Lumla on Tuesday morning by helicopter from Guwahati. After attending a public reception followed by the consecration of the Dolma Lhakhang, a new Tibetan temple, he was supposed to board the helicopter again for the 10-minute flight to Tawang.
But with the chopper failing to take off due to heavy rainfall in neighbouring Assam and poor visibility, he set off by road from Guwahati and reached Bomdila, about 180 kms from here, in the evening. He will deliver a teaching in Bomdila on Wednesday, after which he will head to Dirang, about 48 kms from here.
“We have reached Bomdila. His Holiness should reach Tawang on April 7,” confirmed Jambay Wangdi, who is coordinating the Dalai Lama’s visit in Tawang.
Sources in the Tawang district administration said his visit to Lumla is “most likely cancelled”, but added that they were yet to receive “official communication regarding the cancellation”.
“As of now, his visit to Lumla is cancelled. But once His Holiness reaches Tawang, the final decision on Lumla will be taken, depending on his convenience. It is only due to his tight travel schedule that some modifications are being made to his visit here. He has already started his journey by road and is expected to reach Tawang by April 7,” said Tsering Tashi, the local MLA.
China had objected to the Dalai Lama’s scheduled visit to Tawang and Lumla during his 12-day tour of the Northeast. India on Tuesday hit out at China, saying no “artificial controversy” should be created around the visit and asked Beijing not to interfere in its internal affairs. “No additional colour should be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and visits to various states of India,” said the Ministry of External Affairs.
“There is no political angle behind His Holiness’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. It is completely religious,” asserted Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju. “Arunachal Pradesh is an inseparable part of India, and China should not object to his visit and interfere in India’s internal affairs,” he said.
Dismissing speculation about “diplomatic pressures” affecting his visit to Tawang, Sonam Dagpo, spokesperson of the Tibetan government in exile, said: “There is no reason why China should protest against His Holiness’s visit to Tawang, or, for that matter, to any part within the Indian territory. He is visiting Tawang on the invitation of the people there. It is not the first time that he is visiting Tawang. He went there earlier too. Whenever the people of Tawang invite him, he goes.”
The Dalai Lama last visited the area about eight years ago.
Meanwhile, the residents of Tawang were a disappointed lot on Tuesday. “It is sad that His Holiness will not be arriving today. The delay has only strengthened our desire to have him here,” said Tenzin Norbu, one of the volunteers involved in cleaning the streets of Tawang ahead of the Dalai Lama’s visit.
Lama Tashi, a yak herder who trekked two days to come from Bhutan with his wife and four-year-old son, said: “We have come all the way to catch a glimpse of our beloved God. We shall not go back until we see him.”
The Dalai Lama is expected to remain in Tawang till April 10.