‘No-means-no’ campaign against hydel projects resounds across Kinnaur
A fortnight after a massive landslide killed 28 people near Nigulsari village in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur, the ‘no-means-no’ slogan rang loud and clear across the rugged terrains of the tribal district as thousands of people rallied against hydel power projects on Thursday.
The ‘no-means-no’ campaign, which is steadily gaining popularity in the mountain valley, was launched by the youth of the region after recent landslides in Batseri and Nigulseri areas.
A major demonstration was held at the district headquarters, Reckong Peo, under the joint aegis of local organisations such as Himlok Jagriti Manch, District Forest Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti, Jangi Thopan Powari Prabhavitt Sangharsh Samiti and Hangrang Sangharsh Samiti. Agitating locals demanded that all proposed hydroelectric projects in the Sutlej River valley be cancelled.
Roshan Lal Negi of Jangi Sangharsh Samiti said, “We have held numerous discussions with the administration, government and scientists on the effects of the proposed 804 MW Jangi Thopan power project, to no avail. Scientists have termed the disasters as ‘natural calamities’ as opposed to ‘man-made disasters’ on the behest of the government to give the hydel projects a clean chit.”
“The area where the Jangi Thopan project will be setup falls in active land-sliding zone and tampering with the local landscape will prove fatal for the people of the area,” he said.
Another activist, Shanta Kumar Negi of Hangrang Sangharsh Samiti, said the authorities were using labels such as ‘anti-national’ to intimidate environmentalists and locals opposing the hydel projects. “However, we live in a remote area and our constitution gives special rights to tribal areas,” he said.
“The capitalist model has not only flagged off a blind race for profiteering, but also widened economic inequality in the country,” Manshi Asher of the Himdhara Collective, adding that under this model private companies have dominance and political parties act as their agents.
“Our resources are being privatised on a large scale, which is benefitting a handful of companies, while the public is losing out,” she added.
Guman Singh and Jia Lal Negi of Himalaya Policy Campaign and District Forest Rights Committee, respectively, highlighted the faulty implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the tribal areas of Himachal.
Both, the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act and FRA give people of tribal areas legal rights over water, and forest land.
Zila Parishad member Priya said the Kinnaur movement is a fight for the rights of tribal people. As many as 44 people were killed in landslides in Kinnaur this year.