People’s Union for Democratic Rights strongly condemns the police firing, lathi-charge and arrest of peaceful protesters of the anti-dam movement in Assam in the last two days. Nearly 400 people who had been gathering at the protest site at Ranganadi in Lakhimpur town of north Assam since 16 December were arrested in the wee hours of 26 December. Later when thousands of protesters reassembled to continue their protest at Chauldhowa in the morning of 27 December, police fired in the air, burst tear gas shells, and resorted to lathi-charge to evict the protesters.
The people in Lakhimpur district are protesting as the government has started work on the 2010MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Electric Project (LSHEP) on the Subansiri River, without taking into consideration the economic and social implications the dam would have for the people of rural Assam. The farmers of rural Assam have already experienced the outcomes of construction of dams across several other rivers. For the past several years the cultivable agricultural lands have been damaged due to sand-siltation, and life has become miserable due to sudden floods caused by water released by hydro-electric projects. Even a report from an expert committee of scientists from IIT Guwahati and other universities of Assam has warned the government against such mega-dams in a tectonically unstable region, as it might result in big earthquakes.
Despite such implications pointed out by various sections of society, the government is hell-bent upon building the dam, as it would allegedly increase energy supply for the people. When thousands and thousands of people consisting of farmers, daily wage-earners, school teachers, students and others from middle classes have come out against the dam, the government rhetoric of development for the ‘people’ is an irony.
PUDR, while extending its solidarity to Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and other organizations leading the protest, condemns such double standards on the part of the government and demands that the protesters are released immediately, the injured be offered medical treatment and compensation and all projects of big dams in the Brahmaputra River Valley, including the one in the Subansiri River, be scrapped.
Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan