Activists against dams on Ganga forced to wind up protest(Lead)

June 22nd, 2008 - 12:47 am ICT by IANS  

Dehradun, June 21 (IANS) Noted environmentalist G.D. Agarwal and fellow activists, on a hunger strike since June 13 to protest construction of dams on the river Ganga, had to wind up their agitation Saturday evening after a crowd of 400 people shouted slogans against them. “The demonstrators were virtually gheraoed (cricled) by the crowd who claimed themselves to be locals and said stoppage of the dams would harm their interests and of the people of the hill state,” Vyomesh Chitranvansh, a spokesperson for the fasting activists, told IANS on phone.

The crowd reportedly consisted of former Uttarakhand chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari’s supporters.

The demonstrators would leave for Delhi Sunday morning. “But the agitation would continue and Agarwal says he will continue his fast in the national capital though his health had deteriorated,” he said.

The incident followed a media statement by the former chief minister that the suspension of work on two dams as announced by the Uttarakhand government Thursday evening, in the wake of Agarwal’s protest, was not in the interest of the people of the state.

Agarwal, 76, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and former secretary general to the Central Pollution Control Board, launched his hunger strike against plans to construct six dams over the Ganga in a 100-km stretch from Gangotri, the source of the river, and Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand.

He was accompanied by 10 environmentalists, lawyers and rights activists, while many others joined in the demonstrations every day. They believe that damming of the Ganga would restrict the river’s natural flow and this would have serious environmental repercussions.

Chitravansh said Koshiyari issued his statement after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state Thursday night announced, following Agarwal’s protest, that two of the dams on the Ganga would be suspended.

Koshiyari, also from the BJP, said the government’s decision was not in the interest of the people of the hill state.

“Today evening, some 300 to 400 people claiming to be locals came to the Manikanika Ghat in Uttarkashi where Agarwal and others were on fast and gheraoed them. They shouted slogans against him asking him to go back,” he said.

The police soon arrived on the scene and asked Agarwal and others to pack up before things slipped out of hands. All of them had to leave the place and they reached Kuriyal Bhawan at the office of the Ganga Mukti Abhiyan, Chitravansh said.

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