Today the Lepchas are shattered – their tears mingle with the Teesta waters, their pleas echo in the mountains they worship.
We are the Lepchas, dwellers of the mountains or the ravine folk – the distressed natives of Sikkim, our homeland. Very soon they will call us history.
Why – yesterday they spoke of Human rights, the right to work, eat and live that befits a human. And today they say we have no right to keep our home as we plead it to be.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court had adjudged that we are the indigenous inhabitants of Sikkim; and today some are trying to flush us out of our last surviving home, our sacred land Dzongu.
They speak kind words (developmental purpose they say) while their motives are sinister. Yesterday they had assured that Dzongu was a protected reserve of the Lepchas, our emblem of origin and culture – our hallowed land. And today, in the cloak of development they are planning a series of dams to drown us all.
What is development when it costs lives?
Like Muslims have their Mecca, Christians their Vatican, Hindus their ‘Chaar Dham’ and Buddhists their ‘Bodh Gaya’, for us it is Dzongu our ultimate pilgrimage. Why don’t we have the right to keep it pure and unscarred like they do?
Our democratic government assures certain privileges for tribes – like tribal reserves to preserve tribes and their cultures. Dzongu was one yesterday, and today they’ve set their eyes on it.
All over the world governments protect tribes with facilities for their survival. Why - ours is now being snatched;
Even animals have sanctuaries, plants their bio-reserves. Propagation and protection programmes for endangered species are carried on all over the world to protect them from extinction - while we are being systematically pushed to extinction.
Dams do one good but more wrongs. They are environmentally hazardous, they displace people forcing them to poverty and landlessness – they are weapons of mass destruction. These numerous dams in Sikkim will finally spare none. Our rich bio-diversity will be submerged, our rich agricultural lands will be lost; it will displace all of us slowly at a time, it will in no way create jobs for us, it will bring in a lot of migrant labour who will finally encroach upon our lives and land. How many of us are indeed ready for jobs in these dams? Not even a handful. Ultimately all of us, the local citizens of Sikkim will be tossed away.
They saw the Narmada drown villages, displace people and shatter lives to generate billions of rupees for those who are already rich. Now they’ve realized that the Teesta could do the same and this time at the cost of Dzongu and Lepchas; in due course Sikkim and its people (Lepchas, Bhutias, Gorkhas, etc.).
To save our pious and once bountiful land many innocent children of the mountains have stepped forward. Some are on a fast onto death for over 150 days now, unmindful of their young lives and glaring future. But those hell bent in seeing the wads of notes have no regard for lives. They say that the development is meant for the state but are ready to massacre lives with little thought. Dawa Lepcha and Tenzing Lepcha are two of those who have refused to give in despite acute starvation threatening to wipe them out. Now in the local hospital, they still refuse to take in oral food and are kept breathing by being fed through the Ryle’s tube. They have taken a Gandhian step to express their genuine concern, not only for their tribe but also the environment; it is high time that every Sikkimese realized the desperate cry of these Lepcha youths and shared their concern for the Himalayas. In the long run, it is in the interest of all Sikkimese.
If the ambitious lot is allowed to encroach the Himalayan environment in such a greedy and ruthless manner, soon they will destroy the land and us too. Our brothers, friends and sympathizers in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Siliguri and all over the country and the world, please accept our thanks and appreciation for your concern. Let us continue to support this desperate fight for life and justice. Yes, life and the mountains are more precious than such damaging projects. If our mountains live, so will we; we the Lepchas, the Bhutias, the Gorkhas and all; else it’s time for us to bid our final farewell.
With this I the undersigned appeal in high regards for the Lepcha Youths who are so genuinely fighting for survival not only in spirit but also physically.