Protests over arrest of anti-dam activist reach flashpoint
Itagar, May 02: At least two persons were killed and eight others injured, one critically, when police opened fire to disperse a mob at Tawang today.
Police had to open fire when supporters of an anti-dam activist tried to forcefully enter Tawang police station demanding release of Lama Lobsang Gyatso, a monk heading Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), a group opposed to hydro-power projects in the border district, IGP bin Payeng said.
“The Army has staged flag march at Tawang town to bring the situation under control while prohibitory orders under section 144 have been clamped in the district,” Payeng said.
The deceased have been identified as Tenpa and Nima Wangdi.
Though unofficial sources claimed the death toll as three, including a woman, the deputy commissioner, SP and other officials of the district could not be contacted to confirm the death.
Lama Lobsang was arrested on April 28 last based on a complaint that he had defamed the Abbot of the Tawang Mostery Guru Tulku Rinpoche, the spiritual head of Mon region, by questioning his tiolity through an audio clip.
Lobsang in the clip said that the Abbot of the mostery should not indulge in hydro-power politics of Tawang if he is concerned about the well-being of people of the area. In the clip, he also questioned the tiolity of the Abbot which sparked strong protests in the Buddhist district.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju on hearing the news immediately called up the DC and SP of the district to take stock of the situation, an official communiqué informed.
The Union Minister also discussed the situation with Chief Minister Kalikho Pul and the state chief secretary and appealed to the people to maintain peace and calm in the district.
Rijiju also suggested constituting a high level peace committee immediately, comprising representatives from all sections of society, to initiate the dialogue process and restore normalcy in the district.
Peace committees should also work at sub-divisiol and circle levels to ensure the dialogue process at all levels, Rijiju felt. The deputy commissioner along with additiol deputy commissioners and other administrative officers at circle level must ensure proper participation of all sections of society, he said.
Any grievances of public importance must be addressed forthwith by the local administration promptly. District administration must take all possible steps to restore confidence amongst the people, the minister added.
Reacting with grief to the incident at Tawang, Pul said, “There is a need for the peace process to be activated not just at the place of incidence, but also across Tawang and adjacent districts as the issue is a highly emotive one and needs to be handled very compassiotely”.
He, however, expressed caution that the peace committee should meet on a foundation of dialogue, avoiding any confrontatiol approach.
Pul, who is in New Delhi, further assured that the State government would take all steps to ensure that the grievances of the public are addressed, and that public confidence is gained immediately so that the situation normalizes.
In a message to the district administration, the chief minister instructed the deputy commissioner, SP as well as other officers in the administration to ensure that law and order be given priority.
“Extreme restraint has to be exercised and at the same time, a sense of security and trust needs to be created. Care must be taken so that there is least inconvenience to the public,” he added.