Friday, September 28, 2007

100 Days of ACT Relay Hunger Strike in Sikkim


Gangtok: The relay hunger-strike by members of the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), an organisation largely made up of Lepcha ethnic community in Sikkim, entered its 100th day in Gangtok on Friday. What started as an indefinite strike has turned into a relay. Similar hunger-strikes have been launched in Darjeeling and Kalimpong by members of the Lepcha community in neighbouring West Bengal and moves are on to spread the movement.
The ACT is opposing the Sikkim government’s proposal to set up seven hydel power projects in the Dzongu area north of the State – a region that falls within the Lepcha tribal reserved area and has a population of nearly 8,000. There are less than 45,000 Lepchas, barely five per cent of the State’s population, across Sikkim.

Dzongu is considered sacred by all Lepchas. The community originated from the region and the setting up of mega projects there is being opposed on grounds that they pose not just a demographic threat to the community, but a threat to its traditions and culture and the environment as well,” Mr. Lepcha said.

Chief Coordinator Tseten Lepcha welcomed state government move to set up a study group on effects of the Himalayan glacier on Sikkim.He has also denied that relay hunger strike would be called off on October 2,2007 as per some media reports as relay strike would be continued till a solution to their demands on hydel projects emerge .
ACT had launched its hunger strike on June 20 at BL House on Sonam Gyatso Marg here. The organisation’s general secretary Dawa Lepcha and member Tenzing Gyatso had also sat for a continuous fast for 63 days.
Over 200 members of ACT and other supporting organisations have participated in the relay hunger strike in the past 100 days.
Chief coordinator of ACT Tseten Lepcha said during the hunger strike he and his associates had been successful in creating awareness about the ill effects of dams and this is their biggest achievement. He also said ACT had been able to voice the concerns of a section of suppressed people in a democratic and non-violent manner.
Lepcha added that three official meetings between ACT and the state government had been held since the hunger strike began. Around 12 letters were also exchanged