GUWAHATI: The India-China border town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is under virtual siege in the wake of a fight between two Buddhist monks over the construction of some mega hydel power projects. Lama Lobsang Gyatso (who heads the Save Mon Region Foundation) and his followers are opposing the constructions, while Guru Tulku Rinpoche, the spiritual head or abbot of the historic Tawang Monastery and a few other monks, are endorsing them.
Rinpoche and his camp are believed to be for the constructions to favour politicians, including the family of former Arunachal Pradesh CM, the late Dorjee Khandu, which reportedly has stakes in the projects.
Blood spilled on the streets of this Buddhist town on Monday when police fired on anti-dam protestors for “attacking” a police station demanding the release of Gyatso, who was arrested for “defaming” Rinpoche by questioning his nationality. Two people were killed and over a dozen were wounded. Gyatso was released on bail the same day, but Tawang is under indefinite curfew.
Gyatso claims that 95 per cent of the monks of Tawang Monastery and locals oppose the projects, which they fear will cause ecological imbalance. “Tawang Monastery has always helped people during any disaster, but because of money, some monks of the monastery are endorsing the mega projects. They maintain good relations with politicians to get favours,” Gyatso said. “Most of the Khandu family are contractors. Recently, one of Khandu’s sons, Tsering Tashi, who is an MLA, did the work of a hydel project that entailed a project cost of over `90 crore,” said Gyatso. Tashi, however, denied his involvement in the projects.
Gyatso’s Save Mon Region Foundation has been spearheading protests against hydroelectric dam projects in the area. Over the past few years, the state government signed MoUs with companies for over 100 big and small hydel projects. Thirteen of these, with a total installed capacity of 2791.90 MW, are in Tawang district.
Gyatso says he is opposed to big projests not to mini and micro power projects.
“There is a need for the peace process to be activated in these areas as the issue is a highly emotive and needs to be handled very compassionately,” said Chief Minister Kalikho Pul.