Members of Tashi Choeling lhakhang in Merak filed a petition to the gewog gup claiming that construction of a parking space in Gengo chiwog was defiling sacred sites and degrading culture in the chiwog.

The group claimed that the construction caused harm to their choedey, as it ruined the nye-doh (sacred stone).

The petition, signed by 16 members of the group, stated that the Department of Culture (DoC) stopped the construction works at the site earlier but the gewog initiated a construction.

“When the nye-doh is covered underneath the earth, it’s a degradation of culture,” it stated.

A group member, who requested anonymity, said that the gup constructed the parking space without their consent. “The land on which the parking is constructed is registered under the choe-mang (group).”

He said that although it is a public land, the thram is under the group. “Conducting such activities on the land without consulting our head is not right.”

The member claimed that since the construction works covered most of the sacred stones in the area, they wrote to the gewog saying that the choe-mang will not be responsible for its defilement.

The head of choe-mang was not available for comments.

A resident of the gewog, Wangdi, said that this is not the first time the gewog made a decision without consulting the public. “Let alone discuss with the head of the group, the gewog used its power once again and in the process damaged Aum Jomo’s (local deity of the gewog) sacred stones.”

He said that earlier when the choe-mang requested to construct a house to lit butter lamps near the lhakhang, DoC officials restricted the construction stating that the area had cultural importance and was identified as a sacred site. “Now almost half of this site has been excavated and two of the sacred stones have also been covered in the process.”

He said that people of Merak are deeply rooted in beliefs. “When Aum Jomo’s sacred sites are defiled, we cannot take it lightly.”

Merak gup, Lama Rinchen, said that the gewog excavated the area near the lhakhang on request of Gengo tshogpa. “We never constructed a new parking in Gengo. The tshogpa requested the gewog to help expand the existing parking near the lhakhang.”

The gup said that parking space for about five vehicles was constructed in 2015-2016 fiscal year in Gengo along with an approach road to the chiwog. “Because space was required for better mobility of vehicles, expansion works  were carried out for the benefit of the general public with the request of the chiwog tshogpa.”

Lama Rinchen said that when the head of the lhakhang called him to inquire about the work when it started on February 1, the head did not mention anything about the sacred sites being defiled. “What he and I spoke over the phone was if the public would in the future claim the land to be theirs with all the developmental activities,” he said. “I assured him that no such incidences would happen and the expansion works are in the public interest.”

He said that he even asked the lhakhang head to immediately stop the work if the excavation works were harming anyone in the chiwog. “He didn’t say anything during the talk but later goes on and submits a letter to the gewog.”

It was also learned that during a gewog tshogdu held on February 13, it was decided that some of the rocks that were covered during the excavation work to be restored.

Gengo tshogpa, Jurmey, said that he had requested the gewog to help in the expansion of the parking to help decongest the area. “It was not discussed with the public but the expansion was required at the parking,” he said. “It was done for the interest of the general public.”

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang