Ex-minister joins indefinite hunger strike

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Gangtok, Mar 12 (UNI) Former minister Tseten Lepcha today joined the protests against power projects in the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu, North Sikkim, by embarking on a 48-hour 'token hunger strike' here at BL house.

Mr Lepcha joined the three other youths who are already on indefinte hunger strike against the hydel power projects.

The indefinite hunger strike by Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) general secretary Dawa Lepcha, Tenzing Lepcha and Gebu Lepcha had started on March 10.

The ACT had been spearheading the protests against the proposed mega power projects in Dzongu, citing that the existence of the indigenous Lepcha community and the rich boidiveristy of the region would be threatened.

The agitators demanded that the projects should be immediately scrapped.

Before embarking on his token hunger strike, Tseten Lepcha alleged that the state government had not heeded the protests of the indigenous Lepcha tribal community for the past nine months.

''I am joining the hunger strike for 48 hours as I am a member of the Lepcha community,'' he said.

Dzongu is considered to be a holy place by the Lepchas and the power projects should not be allowed there, the former minister said.

Meanwhile, the Sikkim Himali Rajya Parishad (SHRP) criticised the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) over the issue.

''The SHRP is appalled at the insensitivity shown by the state government at the poor Lepchas who have been on a relay hunger strike since the past 265 days. The SDF has surrendered to the lure of money and fabricated the facts in total disregard to the democratic opinion voiced by the affected people,'' SHRP spokesperson Biraj Adhikari said in a press meet.

''The Lepchas are one of the pillars of Sikkimese society who are being threatened with extermination in their own land and now the time has come when everyone should stand up for them,'' Mr Adhikari said.

There are two proposed mega power projects in Dzongu - 495 MW Panam project and 495 MW Teesta Stage IV project.

Dzongu, a protected area since the time of the Chogyals in Sikkim is the last bastion of the Lepcha tribals.

UNI BG DPM RL HT1540

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