OF DAMS AND PEOPLE
I still remember jumping out of joy as a kid when I use to join my friends and family for picnic parties to Gerukhamukh. A beautiful landscape and a scenic village only about 70 kilometers from my place. Subansiri river, one of the major tributaries of the Mighty Brahmaputra flows through the place which adds more to its beauty. We use to never tire going to the place and it was always the first choice while choosing for places to go for picnics on the beginning of every new year. But now those are the days of the past and are just fond memories.
Today, construction of a Massive 2000 MW hydroelectric projects continues in that place, thus threatening the livelihood of over thousand families on Both sides, Arunachal and Assam. There have been reports that it could create disastrous effects but the government pays no heed to it and has in fact given it an environment clearance to NHPC which of course is a farce. The expert committee has also said that such a huge dam and that too with the design with which it is continuing now is not feasible. And in addition to this, more constructions of dams in Arunachal and China can have devastating effects on the people of Assam and Northeast India.
Perennial floods, which already existed and added on the so called Developmental projects (read dams ) have added to the agonies of the people of Assam. These factors have impacted so much that it has totally changed the culture and also the livelihood pattern of the people residing there. Agriculture today no more provides for subsistence, and people have taken the routes that lead to the city. They have taken to cities like kerela, mumbai, delhi and other places in lookout for work where they work as manual labourer and earn for a living. The women who always wove only in their leisure time and just to clothe herself and her family members is forced to take it up as an occupation and sell it in bare minimum prices.
The student organizations and other civil society organizations have been vehemently opposing this ‘developmental initiatives’ of the government. The organizations which have been till yet have been involved mostly in ethno-nationalistic movements have today turned tables and have focused more on opposing the dams forgetting there ethnic differences as continuance of this dams would mean the survival of the people residing at stake. They have retorted to democratic means like economic blockade, dharnas, rallies etc. Due to this, they also have to face the wrath of the government and the agents of capitalism. Such opposition is seen as a security threat and more and more forces are deployed by the State. Such is the extent that it also invites criticism from the people from other parts of India who sees all this movements and initiatives-as opposing development and label the people of north east as those who always oppose Development and also blames them as “the people of North-east do not want to develop and get into the mainstream and criticize Indian government for no reason”. I myself have heard this line thrown to me almost a million times, when I try and explain to the people of the so called ‘mainstream’. Here I see the perspective lacking, they see the people of the north-east through their stereotypical lens and see this movements for survival and life of dignity as obstructionist attitude. When the state retort to violence to curb these movements, I just want to question, “Can insurgency be far Behind???