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Aborigine Lepcha tribe resents mega-power projects in Dzongu

By Staff
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Gangtok, July 18 (UNI): Resentment is brewing fast among the local people over the implementation of proposed seven mega power projects in Dzongu, the home of aboriginal Lepcha community in North Sikkim.

According to Concerned Lepchas of Sikkim (CLOS) Dzongu is the last bastion and a "holy place" for indigenous Lepcha tribe and seven mega projects if implemented would geopardise not only the fragile hills but also endanger the existance of the tribal people.

Explaining this to reporters here today, a group of landowners from Sakyoung Penthong and Panam said the situation in Dzongu was very tense due to pro and anti projects supporters for 280 MW Panam project. The landowners had been brought to Gangtok by CLOS to highlight the alleged arm twisting tactics of ruling SDF's Dzongu MLA and panchayat members.

"Differences have been created in each village and each family in Dzongu. A war like situation has been created among the Lepcha brothers and who will be responsible if there is bloodshed," said Tashi Namgyal Lepcha, a landowner from Panam.

Another landowner from Sakyong Penthong, Ms Nimdgen Lepcha said they were contended with their peaceful lifestyle in the lap of nature and they would not welcome the hydel projects. "First kill me and my four children and then go ahead with the projects," she thundered.

CLOS president Gyasto Lepcha demanded that the state government must come clean over the constitutional protection given to Dzongu under Article 371 (F) which declares the area as a protected and restricted for outsiders including Sikkimese people. " Why are the projects allowed in Dzongu when even Sikkimese people outside Dzongu cannot buy land", he asked?. Dzongu is about 100 kms north of Gangtok.

Mr Lepcha alleged the Dzongu MLA and the panchayat members were putting pressure on the landowners to part with their farmland with promises of governmental doles to garner support in favour of projects.

Meanwhile, the indefinite hunger strike launched by two Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) members- Dawa Lepcha and Tenzing Lepcha- entered on 29th day today. Both are taken to STNM hospital where they are on fast.

The third meeting between ACT and a state government committee headed by the Chief Secretary held yesterday did not yield any result with promises of further talks on the pipeline.

Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has said the sanctity of Dzongu must be protected at any cost and had directed the Chief Secretary to meet the ACT members.

UNI

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