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BJP faces Akhil ire on big dams

Glare on BTC for land to Ramdev

By A Staff Reporter
  • Published 7.06.16
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Akhil Gogoi leads the demonstration in Guwahati on Monday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, June 6: The BJP-led Assam government today faced its first protest when several thousand farmers across the state gathered under the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) banner here to oppose the construction of big dams in the Northeast.

"As the BJP government came to power in Assam, officials of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) are elated, hoping that it will carry on construction of Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project without trouble," KMSS general secretary Akhil Gogoi told the gathering.

Braving the scorching heat, the protesters, who came from different parts of the state on buses and trains, gathered near Dighalipukhuri. Some of them were from families affected by the passage of high-voltage power transmission lines over their land. Other families faced eviction threats as there were plans to set up an army camp in Silapathar in Upper Assam's Dhemaji district.

"Some people have been saying that the KMSS has gone silent since the BJP came to power in Assam. They are wrong. They should know that the poor people of Assam, who keep KMSS alive, have not died," said Akhil.

A leader of the Lokayat group, an activists' forum based in Pune, attended the protest, promising support to the anti-dam movement.

Intellectual Hiren Gohain, who had appealed to the people not to vote for the BJP, and Sansuma Khunggur Basumatary, who has been pursuing the issue of families affected by the passage of high-voltage power transmission lines in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts, also joined the protest.

The Dhemaji district unit of the All-Assam Students' Union today also burnt an effigy representing the NHPC and blocked National Highway 15 in the district, demanding a halt in the construction of the Lower Subansiri hydel project.

The big dam issue was also raised before Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal by the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad. The group yesterday urged Sonowal to show solidarity with the anti-big dam movement and requested him to convene a tripartite meet among experts, protesters and the government to do away with all complexities pertaining to the issue.

The KMSS also sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding a halt to all kinds of construction work in the hydel project and its decommissioning.

It also demanded the construction of environmentally sustainable, small hydel projects, a stay on all work in river basins until a cumulative impact assessment is done and declaration of the Brahmaputra basin as a neutral river zone.

The memorandum urged the Centre to ask the Chinese government to stop all hydel projects upstream of the Brahmaputra and to oppose all hydel projects in Bhutan which have already or will impact Assam environmentally.

The Bodoland People's Front-led BTC administration, which had forged a pre-poll alliance with the BJP, also faced flak from the KMSS for allotting 3,800 bighas of land to yoga guru Ramdev.

"The poor Bodo people have not got land in Bodoland. Yet the BTC administration is going to give 3,800 bighas of land to Patanjali," said Akhil.

GNB Road witnessed heavy traffic congestion during the protest. "Some people are spreading the word that I have land in several places of Guwahati. I want to challenge them to prove whether I have property in my name. If someone can, I will give him/her a Bolero, the only property that the KMSS has," he added.