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Protest marks Sindol I-Day
(Top) Higher education minister Badri Narayan Patra addresses an empty ground
during the official Independence Day celebrations at the Royal Field and 92-year-old. Lokamata Panigrahi takes the salute at the celebrations organised by the Sindol protesters at Gandhi Maidan in Sonepur. Telegraph pictures

Sonepur, Aug. 16: People in several parts of Sonepur district boycotted official celebrations of Independence Day on Monday and organised their own functions to register their protest against government’s Sindol plan for three barrages over the Mahanadi to produce 320 MW of hydro-power.

Higher education minister Badri Narayan Patra hoisted the tricolour at an empty ground at the Royal Field, the venue for the official Independence Day celebration, where only a few government officials were present and only two groups — the home guards and the reserve police — took part in the parade.

However, at least 15,000 people took part in the parallel Independence Day celebrations organised by the Sindol Prakalpa Birodhi Manch SPBM at the Gandhi Maidan.

Ninety-two-year-old Lokamata Panigrahi, who came to live in Sonepur after being displaced by the Hirakud dam project in Sambalpur in 1952, hoisted the tricolour. The elderly woman faces displacement again because of the Sindol project. People from all walks of life including students took part in the parallel celebration. Students from the schools and colleges took part in the parade and cultural programmes were also held.

Convener of the parallel Independence Day celebrations committee of SPBM Shyama Om Prasad Mishra said the support of the people was unbelievable. “We attribute success of the parallel Independence Day celebrations to the people of the district who came forward to support it. Even school students boycotted the official Independence Day celebration and took part in the celebration organised by the manch. The response of the people of the district was spontaneous,” Mishra said.

Lokamata Panigrahi said she knew how it felt to be forcibly removed from one’s homeland. “I know the pain of displacement as our family was displaced during the Hirakud dam project in 1952. I was in my 30s then and we all came to live in a village in Sonepur district. The government is yet to pay 40 per cent of our compensation. And we face yet another displacement due to the Sindol project. We should fight against the project,” she said.

Speaking to mediapersons after the official Independence Day celebrations at the Royal Field, minister Badri Narayan Patra said that it was unfortunate that the agitators had chosen such an auspicious day to vent their ire against the government.

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