Kupup lies just over 60 km east of Gangtok with a population of about 550 stand close to a tri-junction, where India, China and Bhutan meet. South of Kupup lies the popular Elephant Lake, its tail pointing towards the village and its tapering trunk towards the Dolam plateau, barely 5 km in a straight line on the other side of the rain-drenched hills. Located near Nathula at 14,400 feet, this 89 sq-km pasture land, to which Bhutanese shepherds take their yaks for grazing, has been at the centre of a standoff between Indian and Chinese troops for more than a month now. As per Indian Express report, for the people of Kupup, the India-China tension is not of great importance. For them, the Gorkhaland agitation and the frequent landslides that are disrupting their lives is of paramount importance. A 38-year-old resident Chunzey Bhutia while talking to IE said,“We go to Rinchengang, 9 km ahead of Nathula in Tibet, where we trade with the Chinese. The market is open from Monday to Thursday, from 10 am to 4 pm. We are still going. The trading hasn’t stopped.”
The resident of Kupup says this informal trade between India and China operates seven months every year between May and November when heavy snowfall brings the shutters down. There are only five families who trade with the Chinese while others in the village work with the Border Roads Organisation. A resident told IE the roads to Kupup are constantly being repaired or widened.
Another resident named Dola Sherpa said,”Most of the traders belong to Gangtok, and it’s not easy to get here now.” He added,”It is also difficult to make phone calls. The government recently set up a cell phone tower here, but it’s restricted. Only 30 people can make calls, and they belong to the Army. We can’t. We get reception intermittently,’’ says Sherpa. Business has been hit, he says, not by the border tension with China but the Gorkhaland agitation in Darjeeling that has shut down the region for over a month. The tourists have stopped coming. The shop’s clientele now mostly comprises Army jawans.”
However, despite the claims in Kupup that trade between the two countries continues unabated, the general secretary of the Indo-China Border Trade Association Rajesh Rai says the Chinese have halted business in the last two weeks.
Gopal Pradhan another resident in Kupup while talking to IE about Gorkhaland agitation said that it is the Gorkhaland agitation and not the India-China tension which has hit the village. He said,“We haven’t got any tourists this season. I had to make a number of cancellations. Let’s see what happens in October, our next tourist season.’’