Gyatso Lepcha, general secretary of Affected Citizens of Teesta, addressing the workshop in Gangtok Credit: EastMojo image

Gangtok: A two-day workshop on shrinking spaces in South Asia — ‘The power of Indigenous People’s Resistance’ — was organised by Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) in collaboration with Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur (CRAM) and Indigenous People’s Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) in Gangtok on Wednesday and Thursday.

The workshop witnessed a healthy and diverse audience from different spheres of life. On the inaugural day, Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC) convenor Testen Tashi stressed that we are not only facing challenges in the name of development but it’s also an attack on the original habitat which is increasing in Sikkim due to influx.

“If such influx continues, then we, the indigenous people of Sikkim, might end up being refugees in our own land. For the safeguard of our land, community, mountains and forests we have to come together,” he said. He further expressed his support to the Brazilian indigenous people on behalf of Sikkim.

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Gyatso Lepcha, general secretary of ACT, recalling his struggle of 16 years and said that the issue related to Dzongu is not just limited to Lepchas. It is a matter of concern to everyone who loves their land and Mother Nature, he said. “Over the years, my perspective has changed and I feel we all should have global viewpoint about climate change and global warming that is harming and interfering our indigenous lives to a great extent,” he added.

He further highlighted the aim of this workshop to connect the indigenous people across the globe and discuss about each other’s struggle and to show solidarity. He also informed that the Sikkimese people are facing several challenges through developmental projects like hydel power projects, pharmaceutical industries and tourism industries. ACT is actively opposing Teesta Stage IV project in Dzongu which is going to destroy the livelihood of the Lepchas residing there, he added.

Activists, human rights defenders, retired bureaucrats, students and entrepreneurs from Phillipines, Bangladesh and few Northeast states also had participated in the workshop where presentations and discussions were conducted.

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