Two Lepcha youths to start indefinite hunger strike from tomorrow

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Gangtok, Mar 9 (UNI) Two members of the indigenous Lepcha tribal community will resume indefinite hunger strike from tomorrow at BL house here in protest against the proposed implementation of mega power projects in the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu, North Sikkim.

General secretary of the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), which has been spearheading the protests, Dawa Lepcha said here today, ''Tenzing Lepcha and myself will be going on an indefinite hunger strike after a rally by the Dzongu Lepchas here tomorrow.'' Earlier, the duo was on a 63-day hunger strike last year against the proposed mega power projects in Dzongu and had withdrawn on August 21 following a public appeal from Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling. Both were under close medical observation at STNM hospital after their health condition had deteriorated at that time.

''We had withdrawn the strike hoping that a reasonable solution will be reached,'' Dawa Lepcha said.

Expressing his frustrations over the lack of response from the state government, he said this time the hunger strike will be ''do or die''.

''We want to convey the message that we are really serious. Some more Lepcha people will join our indefinite hunger strike,'' he said.

ACT members are continuing their indefinite relay hunger strike that reached 263 days today.

About 200 Lepchas from Dzongu participated in a rally today from Tashi Veiw Point to BL house here. A bigger rally will be conducted tomorrow, the ACT general secretary said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister had already gone on record to say that the power projects in Dzongu will not be stopped.

Speaking during the Budget Session at the Legislative Assembly two days ago, Mr Chamling said the power projects were in the interest of Sikkim and the people and the state government would go ahead with it.

Dzongu is a Lepcha reserve and the last bastion of the indigenous tribal community. Nestled in the lap of the mighty Khangchendzonga, Dzongu is considered as a holy place for the Lepchas who believe that the first Lepcha couple was born here.

The NHPC will submit its DPR this month for the 495 MW Teesta Stage IV project whose major components lie in Dzongu. The NHPC has already discounted the protests and said it would not affect the DPR submission.

However, in its project report, the NHPC admitted that it was facing resistance from the Lepcha people at Dzongu where the dam and head race tunnel is proposed. Proper study could not be conducted at the dam area because of the resistance, it had been mentioned in the study.

UNI BG DPM SW KN1817

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