Teesta protesters allege govt pressure


Gangtok, June 24: Members of Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) have come down heavily on the ‘coercion, subjugation and administrative intimidation’ that the people of Dzongu are being subjected to.

In a news conference yesterday, ACT members claimed that government functionaries were resorting to pressure tactics to gain support for the Teesta hydel power schemes. The allegations followed after Dzongu MLA Sonam Gyatso Lepcha came up with signatures of 86 people, apparently in favour of the power project, after a meeting on June 21.

“Most of the landowners are primitive tribesmen, docile, god-fearing and submissive by nature and a majority of them do not want to part with their ancestral land,” said Tseten Lepcha, the chief coordinator of ACT. “But they are being threatened that if they do not part with their lands all government facilities will be stopped. All those fighting for their lands, rights and future are being branded anti-national and politically motivated.”

ACT is demanding that all the seven mega-hydel projects in Dzongu, a reserved area for the Lepchas, be scrapped. It also wants the government to review all the other projects in the state. They are also opposing encroachment on Kanchenjunga National Park and Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve by the projects.

“We are concerned about the environment. We do not think the government of Sikkim or the government of India can invade national parks or biosphere reserves. We have documented evidence on how the people are being deceived by the government in connivance with private companies,” said ACT president Athup Lepcha.

The hunger strike in support of ACT demands entered its fifth day today as three members of the forum — former Lepcha Youth Association president Namgyal Lepcha and two land owners Chophel and Rabzor Lepcha — joined the fast yesterday.

Senior leaders of the Kalimpong-based Rong Om Prongzum (Lepcha Youths United) also met the protestors yesterday and pledged their support.

ACT members will have their first dialogue with the government at a meeting organised tomorrow by political secretary to the Sikkim chief minister K.T. Gyaltsen. Acting chief minister D.D. Bhutia is likely to be present at the meeting.

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