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Struggle Against the Pagladiya Dam in Assam

Monirul Hussain, professor Political Science at the Gauhati University, Assam:

"The biggest protest action against the proposed Pagladiya Dam Project (on the river Pagladiya, an important tributary of the Brahmaputra river in Assam) took place on 29th January 2004 and continued up to 4th March 2004 for 35 days without any interruption.
On 29th January 2004, a big contingent of officials from the district administration and the Brahmaputra Board arrived at Thalkuchi, the proposed site of the project, in order to conduct the land survey and to assess the compensation requirements of the people. They also set up a big camp to accommodate the officials and the staff of the revenue department for the purpose. They were also backed up by a large police contingent.
This created a situation of confrontation; between the government bent on going ahead with the project and the people determined to resist the project. Realizing the danger coming their way, all the villagers came out from their homes and blocked all the roads, barring the officials from entry into the villages in order to stop the survey work.

The government officials first tried to convince the people to allow them to do the work assigned by the government. When they failed to do so, they threatened the people with dire consequences if they continued to block the official work of the government. The people refused to listen to the government officials' order to remove the blockade.
On the next day, 30th January 2004, the police resorted to blank firing to scare the people away and detained a few leaders of the movement in the camp and tried to transport them to the district headquarters at Nalbari in a police vehicle. People stopped the vehicle from moving and pressurized the police into releasing them all.

The impasse continued for days together – no one was in a mood to give up. At last the officials attempted to do the survey of a few families to which the people did not agree. Ultimately, the government officials and the police had to go back without completing the assigned task after 35 days of face to face confrontation with the people. This was a landmark success of the popular resistance movement against the state-sponsored development-induced displacement. This gave a tremendous boost to the morale of the people who had been fighting for a long time to stop the Pagladiya Dam Project."

Fragment from: Interrogating Development - state, displacement and popular resistance in North East India; Monirul Hussain; Sage Publications Ltd; New Delhi, Thousand Oaks, London, 2008; page 139-140.

See also: Resisting the State - grassroots movement against the Pagladiya dam project; Monirul Hussain; 2008; at Manipur Research Forum

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May 2012.