Arunachal govt welcomes power minister by detaining anti-dam activists

[ Tongam Rina ]

ITANAGAR, 8 Jul: A nervous state government detained activist lawyer Ebo Mili and Siang Indigenous Farmers’ Forum (SIFF) convener Dunge Apang while the union power minister was on a visit to Itanagar.

They were released after more than 10 hours of detention.

The activists were made to sign a bond to ‘keep the peace’ till the completion of the inquiry into the case NV/PS/non-FIR (Part-I) Case No-14/24, u/s 128 of the Indian Civil Defence Code. They will have to forfeit Rs 50,000 each in case of breach of the bond.

This was Mili’s third arrest for his stand against mega power projects in the state. He was first arrested in March 2022 with Artist Neelim Mahanta for defacing the civil secretariat wall with a ‘No more dams’ graffito.

He was again arrested for protesting against the signing of memorandums of agreement between the state government and hydropower PSUs for 12 stalled hydropower projects.

The police said that they were detained in order to “maintain public order, as there were apprehensions that they were likely to disrupt the forthcoming public meeting involving the chief minister and the union minister and attempt to cause a public order issue.”

The police further claimed that “credible sources also indicated that other members of the state-based anti-dam organisations, such as the SIFF, were likely to join him in this endeavour.”

After detaining the activists for more than 10 hours, the police said that the activists had not been arrested, but that it was a “preventive action.”

A press statement issued by the anti big dam organizations have dismissed the police version, saying that it was meant to be a peaceful demonstration.

“Ebo Mili was detained along with Dunge Apang, convener of SIFF, for trying to hold a peaceful demonstration against the rampant signing of MoUs with hydropower companies in the state,” they said.

In a statement, the organisations said that the government of India should reconsider its stance on pushing for more dams in Arunachal. “In addition, we are deeply concerned about the proposed 11,000 MW Upper Siang multipurpose storage project as being considered of national importance that could imply that none of the concerns mentioned matters to the government of India,” the statement read.

It called on the government to “prioritise environmental conservation led by community wellbeing and our self-determination; that we look into long-term sustainability over short-term gains.”

Unbothered by social media outrage and embarrassment that followed the arrest of the two activists, the chief minister tweeted that he had a productive meeting with the power minister.

“We discussed on the status of hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh. Our ongoing projects are making steady progress, and we are committed to overcoming any challenges to expedite their completion. These projects are not only vital for meeting the state’s power needs but also for contributing to the national grid and boosting our economy,” the chief minister’s tweets read.

The visit and the arrests happened while major parts of the state have been reeling under absence of electricity for several days, including several pockets in Papum Pare district, which is the downstream of the Pare hydroelectric power station and the Ranganadi power station.

Several places in the downstream areas have reportedly been flooded after the dam gates of the both the plants were opened.