HP govt hints at withdrawal of FIRs against Kaza women for preventing entry of agri minister in Spiti valley

The district police have initiated legal action against over 200 residents, of which 199 are women who had participated in the protest at the entry gate of the village on June 9, demanding that the agriculture minister and his entourage be placed under quarantine for entering the valley
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Updated on Jul 03, 2020 06:02 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Dharamshala | By, Dharamshala

With public and political support pouring in for 199 Kaza women protesters, who were booked en masse for preventing the state agriculture minister’s entry to the Spiti valley last month over coronavirus infection fears, the state government on Friday hinted at withdrawing cases filed against them.

“The government will consider withdrawing cases filed against locals in Kaza,” said chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, adding that he was looking into the matter.

Agriculture minister Ram Lal Markanda also said that he may recommend the government to withdraw the cases against them.

The district police have initiated legal action against over 200 residents, of which 199 are women who had participated in the protest at the entry gate of the village on June 9, demanding that the agriculture minister and his entourage be placed under quarantine for entering the valley, as per the Covid rules.

A woman in almost every household of Kaza village has been booked by the local police under sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 143 (unlawful assembly) and 188 (disobedience of public order) of the Indian Penal Code.

A SPONTANEOUS PROTEST

On June 9, Markanda, who was touring his constituency, reached near Kaza, when he was stopped by locals at the village gate.

The locals wanted the minster to follow the quarantine norms formulated by the Committee For Preventive Measures and Sustainable Development’ (CPMSD), a joint forum comprising youth and women groups and five monasteries of the valley.

In tribal areas, collective decisions may override the government orders as local communities have been given powers of self-governance under various statues. Soon after the Covid-19 outbreak in India, the Spiti CPMSD banned the entry of outsiders in the valley.

In April end when the government allowed people to enter the state, the committee enforced strict quarantine on all returnees.

On that day, the committee members had gathered at the village gate to discuss some local issues with the administration when Markanda arrived there.

“Our protest was spontaneous and driven by a sense of security,” said Sonam Dolma, president of Kaza Mahila Mandal.

“We were scared of the virus and wanted Spiti valley and our children to be safe,” she said.

Dolma said that the quarantine norms framed by the CPMSD were applicable to all including their family members.

She added that the minister had reached Spiti for the second time in less than a fortnight without observing travel restrictions.

“No one is immune to the virus. Keeping our safety in view we asked him to return or follow quarantine norms,” she said adding that the police harassment started the very next day.

Maintaining that efforts of the locals kept Spiti valley corona free, Dolma said that the government should allow the Spiti residents to follow their own set of rules.

“We will also write to the deputy commissioner and the government to withdraw cases filed against us,” she added.

MARKANDA DEFENDS SELF

Meanwhile, Markanda said that he was visiting Spiti to end a strike by BRO labourers and was to return to Shimla to attend a meeting.

“I appreciated the locals’ decision and left immediately. However, later I came to know about some political involvement in the protest. Some people present in the protest raised pro-Congress slogans,” he said.

Markanda added that the cases were registered by the police suo moto.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Naresh K Thakur is a staff reporter in Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. Based at Dharamshala, he covers Tibetan affairs, local politics and environmental issues.

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