Gangtok: Hundreds of people in Samdur village near Tadong in Gangtok staged a protest against the closure of the village’s only road link due to fencing of defence land by the Indian Army.
Residents maintained that Samdur has been completely cut off after the Army fenced its compound which blocked the only road connecting the village with MP Golai at Tadong along NH10. They said the road has been used by civilians since the 1960s and is the only link to the locality.
Tek Bahadur Basnett, a resident of Samdur, said the village existed before the 1950s and several generations of the villagers have been using the road since then. “At least 11,000 people have been affected with the fencing of the army compound and closure of the road. They have been harassing the civilians in all ways and have been constructing the metal fence in the wee hours. The Army settlement is not just fencing their areas but are also blocking the road that connects the village with NH 10,” Basnett added.
The 3-km stretch in contention is the only road connecting the village with the NH-10 stretch of Gangtok. The road passes through Army land and has been blocked after the security personnel initiated fencing work of all its areas. The road connects Samdur village and Lower Syari. The area has four schools and a hostel for the underprivileged.
Another villager added that the closure has affected locals, especially students, employees and the sick and old a lot as the road has also been a lifeline of the village for ages.
“The injustice that is taking place with the residents of Samdur village is really painful and to object such suppression by the army, we have hit the road to protest. We will continue the movement unless a permanent solution is met. We had been living in cohesion with the Army since decades and no untoward breach has taken place. But today the Army has marooned the villagers by constructing the fence,” lamented the villager.
“We are not against the fencing but we want them to shift the fence from below the side to the hillside leaving the road connectivity open for all. For stay with respect to fencing and road blockage we have also approached the High Court too. It is not just about fencing but the army establishment here has also cautioned the locals of closing down of the road for the villagers. We are willing to cooperate with Army in finding solution to the ongoing problem,” Basnett said.
With the villagers up in arms and unrelenting to call off their protest, the Army held a joint meeting with the East Sikkim district administration to discuss and resolve the standoff later in the afternoon.
Emerging from the meeting, East Sikkim district collector Raj Yadav said that the thoroughfare that was sealed by the Army by constructing the fence has been made open for smooth passage of the villagers towards Lower Syari. “Considering further solution to the persisting issue we will have a joint meeting with the Army to avert any such instances to come up in days ahead. We will also carry out joint inspection of the area and ensure that the entry and exit route of the village that exist is not closed,” he said.
Later, a meeting was convened with chief secretary AK Srivastava and it was decided that all the access to the village be kept open and maintain status quo until alternative route is made available for the villagers.
Similarly, a joint inspection which will include state administration and the Army is scheduled to take place on September 11 to find out an amicable solution with respect to connectivity.