Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sikkim Cops block march to Gandhi statue

Gangtok, Oct. 2: Around 100 people taking part in a procession brought out by two organisations to garland the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at M.G. Marg here today nearly turned violent when police blocked their passage saying they did not have the necessary permission.
Monks and Lepcha youths and women carrying placards, banners, a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi and the national flag, jostled with the police at the foot of M.G. Marg, where the law enforcers had put up a human barricade.
Tension mounted when the marchers started raising slogans and additional forces trooped in with lathis and helmets. However, the police showed restraint, while East district police chief M. S. Tuli and district collector Vishal Chauhan tried to convince the marchers to keep aside all banners (apart from the national flag) before proceeding further.
The Sikkim government had last year prohibited processions of any kind with banners and sloganeering on M.G. Marg.
When the administration’s suggestions failed to have an effect, the police shoved 30 people, including monks, into a waiting van and took them away for detention.
The rest of the marchers were allowed to go up to the statue in small groups, minus the banners and posters, and pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi.
The detainees were released this evening.
Today’s march was organised by Concerned Lepchas of Sikkim and Sangha of Dzongu, the two organisations supporting Affected Citizens of Teesta in its non-violent protests against mega hydel projects in the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu, North Sikkim.