Friday, August 24, 2007

Sikkim Opposition Parties Sore Over 'ACT' action

Dismay over ACT pause

Gangtok/Kalimpong, Aug. 23: The Opposition in Sikkim has expressed disappointment at not being consulted by Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) before calling off the indefinite hunger strike.
“We are in no position to say as to what should be done considering the deteriorating health condition of the satyagrahis. Our action will be confined to see that the right as provided by the democracy is not trampled upon. Though we appreciate the cause for which your organisation has come forward we do not wish to become a part of the action of NGOs like yours for political gains,” reads the letter written to ACT president Athup Lepcha.
The five-page letter has been signed by Sikkim Congress chief Nar Bahadur Bhandari, BJP president H.R. Pradhan, CPM state secretariat member P.P. Koirala and general secretary of Sikkim Himali Rajya Parishad Tara Shrestha. It also lists the stand taken by the Opposition during the movement including courting arrests, the burning of effigies and rallies.
ACT members Dawa T. Lepcha and Tenzing Gyatso had called off the fast on Tuesday after abstaining from oral intake of food for 63 days. The move came after several appeals by Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling to call off the fast and provide a congenial atmosphere for talks.
ACT is opposing the proposed construction of seven mega hydel power projects in the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu in North Sikkim on religious and environmental grounds. The protests, that have spanned over the last two months, have been actively supported by the opposition parties and some NGOs.
In Kalimpong, 10 Lepcha men today began an indefinite relay hunger strike under the banner of Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (ILTA) at Tricone Park to protest the “desecration” of Dzongu.
The ILTA protest has been organised to express solidarity with the ACT movement.
ILTA president L.S. Tamsang said the hunger strike will continue till the hydel projects in Dzongu are scrapped. “We have no objection to hydel power projects. In fact, they are welcome to execute the project elsewhere on the Teesta, but not in Dzongu.”
Explaining the significance of Dzongu, Tamsang said everything Lepcha, from their traditional brew to the marriage ritual, originate there.
“In fact, for us there is no heaven and hell. When we die, our soul returns to Dzongu,” he said.