Arunachal: Audio raises doubt over China’s role in anti-dam movement

  • Rahul Karmakar, Hindustan Times, Tawang
  • Updated: May 10, 2016 00:31 IST
(Representative image) Another audio clip has raised suspicion about China’s role in the anti-dam movement in Arunachal Pradesh. (Picture courtesy: Shutterstock)

Days after an allegedly abusive audio clip killed 50 years of peace in Tawang, another has raised suspicion about China’s role in the anti-dam movement in Arunachal Pradesh.

A complaint against anti-dam activist Lobsang Gyatso — who was arrested on April 28 for disrespecting and questioning the nationality of Tawang Monastery abbot Guru Tulku Rinpoche — was based on an audio clip that allegedly contained his rant against the abbot in the Monpa tribal dialect.

Gyatso, 36, who is a senior lama at Tawang Monastery, claims 95% of the monastery’s monks are with him in the movement against mega dams that threaten the fragile Eastern Himalayan ecosystem.

A week before the arrest, another audio clip had Gyatso allegedly speaking against MLA Pema Khandu after 16 people working on the latter’s five-star hotel project near Tawang died in a landslide.

Khandu represents Mukto assembly constituency elsewhere in Tawang district but is a resident of Bomdir, 10km from Tawang town. “In that audio clip, Anna Lama (Gyatso) is heard saying he can organise foreign funding if the Indian government cannot provide help to locals. He was earlier accused of taking orders from Beijing, and it all adds up,” Tawang Zilla Parishad chairperson, Jambey Tsering, told HT.

On the basis of Tsering’s complaint, the police arrested Gyatso on April 28 and shot two of his supporters who were demanding his release on May 2.

Khandu’s brother and local MLA, Tsering Tashi, accused of being involved in some of the district’s hydropower projects, also suspected Gyatso had foreign backing. “The audio clip is self-evident,” he said.

“Discrediting our movement by linking it with China or any other country supposedly against India’s bid to be a major hydropower producer is very easy. There must be proof,” Gyatso, who heads the Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), said. The government can always order a CBI inquiry to find out who’s with whom, an SMRF member said. He reminded BJP parliamentarian Tarun Vijay’s May 2012 statement in the Rajya Sabha seeking a central probe if the anti-dam monks were being provoked by China, as alleged by the UPA-II government then.

“What is happening in Tawang is a battle between the powerful and people who feel threatened by the proposed dams. But things can be sorted out without animosity and bloodshed,” Jamphel Tsewang, vice-chairman of the district peace committee, said.

A dozen big hydropower projects with a total installed capacity of generating 2,792 MW of electricity are proposed in Tawang. The NGT ruling against one of them — the 78 MW Nyamjang Chhu in Zemithang — based on SMRF’s petition last month reportedly angered the dam lobby.

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