The indefinite hunger strikes that were a part of Satyagraha started by the Affected citizens of Teesta, Sangha of Dzongu and the Concerned Lepchas of Sikkim, to protest against the implementation of numerous destructive mega Hydro electric project in north Sikkim and Dzongu in particular completes its two years on 20th June, 2009.
It was on 20th June, 2009 when three young men affiliated to ACT did something unheard of in Sikkkim. They sat on an indefinite hunger strike to draw attention to the damage that many sanctioned hydel projects would bring to their state. With this, the hydel debate was no more just whispers in the corridors of Tashiling but rather audible in every home around Sikkim. There was both sympathy and apathy but the greatest achivement of this noble act of the young men was to draw awareness among the people of Sikkim and elsewhere on this mass excessive agenda of the government to sanction hydel projects in every breath and corner of Sikkim and the negative environemntal and social impacts it would bring in the very near future.
ACT commemorated this historic day by dedicating the moment to the following personalities whose contribution helped the movement to reach this milestone.
ACT's ideologue late Comrade Smitu Kothari, who as the head of the Intercultural resources, New Delhi, provided the intellectual resource to start the ACT movement to fight against all destructive anti-people projects in the state and in the north East.
Smitu Kothari was one of the founders of Lokayan ("Dialogue of the People"), and Intercultural Resources, two centers in Delhi, India promoting exchange between non-party political formations and concerned scholars and other citizens from India and the rest of the world. Trained in physics, communications and sociology, he is involved in ecological, cultural and human rights issues striving to collectively forge a national and global alternative that is socially just and ecologically sane. He had been a visiting Professor at Cornell and Princeton Universities. He was President of the International Group for Grassroots Initiatives and a Contributing Editor of The Ecologist and of Development. He hasd published extensively on critiques of contemporary economic and cultural development, the relationship of nature, culture and democracy, developmental displacement, people’s governance and social movements. Smitu was always a source of inspiration and support to not just people's movements and struggles in India, but also to voices of dissent and alternatives across the globe.
Among the books he has edited are: Voices of Struggle. Social Movements in Asia (2006); Voices of Sanity, In Search of Democratic Space (2002); A Watershed in Global Governance? An Independent Assessment of the World Commission on Dams; The Value of Nature: Ecological Politics in India (2003); Out of the Nuclear Shadow (with Zia Mian, 2001); Rethinking Human Rights: Challenges for Theory and Action (1991); and, The Non-Party Political Process: Uncertain Alternatives (with H. Sethi, 1988); He was currently working on a new book, Ecological Justice: Nature, Culture and Democracy.
Smitu had also been a long time vocal supporter of the struggle of the thousands of adivasis, farmers, labourers, fishworkers, potters and all the project-affected people in the Narmada valley and articulated their concerns at various fora both within India and across continents. He was one of the striving spirits behind the Independent People's Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India held in 2007.
A truly loving person, Smitu continues to be a source of inspiration not just for people's movements and struggles in India, but also to voices of dissent and alternatives across the globe. He was a dear friend to many, a source of tireless inspiration. A leading social and environmental activist in India, and possessed the unique quality to truly bridge the local-global dimensions of our collective social justice movements.
He worked tirelessly against elite-driven development models and was a prominent critic of the policies and practices of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Smitu had also been involved with Bank Information Centre (BIC) since the beginning in 1986 and served on BIC’s Board of Directors since 2006.
ACT members had the opportunity to meet him during his visit to Gangtok with the International Honours Program comprising of students from all over the world.
Smithuji passed away on 23rd march 2009. He is survived by wife and a daughter and left behind a legacy of enormous impact on the people’s movement in free India. The indigenous Lepchas of Sikkim and the world will always remain indebted to him and will carry forth his vision.
2. Late CHUKIE TOPDEN
The ACT and all sister organization paid homage to late Chukie Topden, for her selfless service to fight the cause of the Lepchas and Affected Citizens of North Sikkim. A Social and Environmental activist, Member of SAFE (Sikkim Association for Environment), and a dear friend of Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT). She never feared to speak the truth to save Sikkim from the dangers of Environmental degradation and against mega hydel projects threatening our landscape. She will always be remembered and respected for her dedication in highlighting the most pertinent environment and social problems that all Sikkimese people face in these times and in the days to come. Her effort in scrapping the Rathongchu Hydro project will always be remembered by all Sikkimese.
Her contribution in leading the Lepchas of Dzongu in their movement to protect their homeland against the threat of mega projects will always be remembered as the one of the reasons of the success of the Satyagraha.
3. Ren Ongchuck Lepcha
The ACT also thanked and dedicated this day to all their members who fasted for the cause. Special mention has to be made of Ren Ongchuck Lepcha,who fasted continually for 81 days before he was forced to withdraw on popular request due to serious health complications which could have taken his life. They thanked and expressed their appreciation for him on this historic day and dedicated the continuity of the struggle to him.