IN THE PAST TWO MONTHS, a new kind of resistance has taken shape in India’s northeast—and it stands apart from the separatist insurgencies and local nativist movements that seek to uphold the identity and rights of indigenous population groups. The new movement is about land rights, environment protection and social defence, and it was shaped during the protests this year against big dams in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
In Assam, peasants and environmental protection groups have been joined by student-youth radicals to stop the movement of materials for the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro-Electric Project in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh. The local intelligentsia, thinking national, question the big-dam development paradigm of using the region’s considerable resources without paying heed to the fears such big projects generate.
These concerns cut across every class and race in the Northeast, especially in the polyglot state of Assam, where the distress is typical of a lower riparian. These dams will be located in one of the world’s most seismically sensitive zones, so the fears of a dam collapse wiping out huge areas of Assam cannot easily be dismissed. In Arunachal Pradesh, there is apprehension about the displacement of the indigenous tribes and damage to their social-cultural fabric, and the adverse impact on the biodiversity hotspots that mark the state’s importance on the global biodiversity map. In Manipur, the Kukis and the Hmars dread displacement and the environmental impact of the 1500 MW Tipaimukh hydro power project.