New Delhi: An anti-dam activist and advocate from Arunachal Pradesh, Ebo Mili, was detained by the state police on August 12, along with a colleague, for staging a peaceful protest outside a banquet hall in Itanagar, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was engaged in signing memoranda of understanding (MoAs) with public sector undertakings (PSUs) to unroll 12 stalled hydropower projects, the Arunachal Times reported.
Along with chief minister Pema Khandu and deputy chief minister Chowna Mein, the signing ceremony was also attended by Union minister for power and new and renewable energy R.K. Singh.
The news report said that while the police denied they were detained but state capital superintendent of police Rohit Rajbir Singh was quoted as saying, “The police team patrolling the Niti Vihar area chanced upon advocate Ebo Mili, who had come to voice his opinions on the dam subject. He and his colleague Mejo Mihu were then enquired regarding the action. They will shortly be handed over to their well-wishers.”
The news report said, “It is learnt that, after hours-long interrogation, Mili and Mihu were reportedly forced by the police to sign a bond and they were later taken to the ICR deputy commissioner’s office.” His well-wishers accused the police of harassing them for protesting against the state government’s move, adding, “They made them stand for hours at the police station and unnecessarily harassed them.”
In March 2022, Mili was arrested by state police along with an Assam-based artist, Nilim Mahanta, accusing them of defacing a mural of a dam drawn on the boundary wall of the state secretariat by placing a resistance logo and writing ‘No More Dams’ in black.
The latest go-ahead of the BJP governments in the state and at the Centre to the stalled dam projects in an ecologically sensitive north-eastern state is likely to generate about 11,523 megawatt of energy cumulatively. Five projects (2,626 MW) have been allocated to the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO), five projects (5,097 MW) to Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN), and the remaining two projects (3,800 MW) to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), as per another report on the newspaper. These dams are expected to come up on the Lohit, Subansiri Dibang and Siang river basins.
Construction of dams in the border state has been a contentious issue. Several protest movements have been seen by the local population to resist dam construction including in Tawang where the chief minister’s family is involved in dam construction.
In an editorial on August 12, the Arunachal Times highlighted that the Acheso Atih Welfare Society (AAWA) had opposed signing of the MoA with the SJVN for the 420 MW Mihundo HEP, and the All Idu Mishmi Students’ Union had declared a 12-hour bandh as a mark of protest against signing of the MoAs in Dibang valley and Lower Dibang valley districts.
“The locals are alleging that their concerns had not been addressed before the signing of MoAs. This is a serious allegation. The government should have taken locals into confidence before signing MoAs. Hydropower is a very sensitive subject and deeply emotional too. A large section of the people do not want to part ways with their land. Hopefully, the government will look into the concerns raised by the affected people. They should engage in a dialogue with them,” the editorial said.