Lepcha v hydropower

Sikkim has recently been witness to what may be the longest satyagraha in its history. The indefinite hunger strike was called on 20 June 2007 by the Affected Citizens of Teesta, an ostensibly apolitical organisation formed to fight the Gangtok government's decision to build seven large-scale hydroelectric projects within the ancestral lands of the indigenous Lepcha community. Since then, at any given time passers-by at the Bhutia Lepcha House in Gangtok have seen at least ten satyagrahis lying down in silent protest – young women and men, as well as a host of Buddhist lamas.

Meanwhile, at the state hospital nearby, two young men lie on infirmary cots, their bodies slowly breaking down. These are Dawa Lepcha and Tenzing Gyatso Lepcha, the two who initiated the strike. "We are optimistic that the path set by Dawa and Tenzing will eventually lead the government to rethink and stop the destruction of our sacred land," one young protestor said recently, echoing the sentiments of his fellow strikers. (On 22 August, after 63 days, Dawa and Tenzing tearfully halted their strike, citing health issues and the recent offer of talks by the state's chief minister.)

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Himal Southasian