Thursday, July 12, 2007

Highway blocked for 2 hours

Malli (Kalimpong), July 11: Traffic on NH31A, which connects Sikkim to Siliguri, was disrupted for two hours following a blockade by the Rong Ong Prongzom (Lepcha Youth Organisation) here today.

The roadblock that began at 11am, was organised in support of Affected Citizens of Teesta which has been on hunger strike in Gangtok, demanding the immediate scrapping of the NHPC’s hydel projects in Dzongu, an area reserved for Lepchas.

About 2,000 people, mostly Lepchas attired in their traditional best — dumpra (for men) and gadha (for women) — split into four teams and blocked different intersections, allowing only ambulances, defence and other emergency service vehicles to pass. A heavy police bandobust, including a team of Sikkim policemen, was in place to maintain peace.

Addressing the gathering at the blockade, Prongzom president Dorji Lepcha said the intention was not to cause harassment to commuters, but to preserve the identity of the Lepchas. “Dzongu (meaning fortified palace in Lepcha) is sacred to us and any attempts to destroy it will have to be stopped,” he said.

Reacting to the blockade, the Sikkim information and public relations department issued a communique later in day. “The projects in Sikkim have been cleared by the government in public interest. The government of Sikkim has taken up the matter with the government of West Bengal expressing serious concern about the unlawful blockade and the lack of steps to prevent it,” the release reads.