ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Violence on Project-Affected People in Himachal Pradesh

On 14 February, activists of the “Saal Ghaati Bachao Sangharsh Morcha” (Save Saal Valley Struggle Front) were subjected to unprovoked and armed attacks by goondas of the contractors of the Hull I hydropower project in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. This attack was to scare the people who had opposed this project since 2005 in the two panchayats of Silla Gharat and Jadera, on grounds of their impacts on local environment and livelihoods. The purpose of the attack was to initiate, forcefully, work on the project but it evoked a strong response from the local people of the concerned panchayats, Chamba town as well as people’s organisations and activists from across Himachal Pradesh, manifesting in demonstrations and public protest actions on 15, 16 and 17 February in Chamba.

On 17 February, more than 500 to 600 protesters representing the morcha and 10 other organisations presented a memorandum to the district collector demanding an immediate judicial inquiry into the incident and scrapping of the proposed Hull hydro projects (both I and II) in the Saal Valley. Despite repeated protests and agitations of the morcha against the projects for the last five years on the grounds that the projects would destroy the Hull Nala (a sub-tributary of the Ravi), which supports irrigation, water mills, fi sheries and drinking water needs of Chamba town, both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress governments have turned a deaf ear to the demands of the people. It is not a question of the goons – the abettors of this violence need to be held. The use of coercive means and violent intimidation by company-hired goons is an indicator of the failure of the administration and government to protect the rights of its people.

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