Monday, October 22, 2007

Dzongu hydel stalemate thaws

Gangtok, Oct. 18: Protesters against the mega hydel power projects in Dzongu, North Sikkim, today claimed to have renewed dialogue with the state government.

Representatives of various organisations involved in the agitation met Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling on Tuesday evening at Mintokgang — his official residence. This is the first time the chief minister has directly met those involved in the protest which has completed 118 days since the indefinite fast and the relay hunger strike began at B.L. House at Sonam Gyatso Marg here.

The issue had reached a stalemate with no talks being held between the state government and the protesters in the recent past.

Tseten Lepcha, the chief coordinator of Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) that has been spearheading the protest told The Telegraph that the most important outcome of the meeting was the re-establishment of the dialogue process.

“Now the representatives of the Lepcha community will be able to directly place their demands before the chief minister,” he said.

The protest in the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu is centred on fears that the hydel projects would hurt religious sentiments and affect the ecological balance of the place.

“The Dzongu Holy Land Protection Joint Action Committee is hopeful that with the positive commitment of the chief minister, the hopes and aspirations of the Lepchas will be fulfilled soon,” a release issued by the committee said.

The joint forum, comprising Lepcha associations of Sikkim, Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Kurseong, like the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association, the youth associations from the region and ACT was formed recently to integrate the protest. The delegation that met the chief minister today was led by Lyangsong Tamsang, who heads the joint action committee.

The committee members who met the chief minister submitted a memorandum saying that Dzongu was the holy land of the Lepchas and that it must be protected at all costs.

Chamling in turn asked the committee to view the issue rationally and suggest a reasonable solution.