India Anti-dam activists detained ahead of Union Minister visit to Arunachal Pradesh News
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India Anti-dam activists detained ahead of Union Minister visit to Arunachal Pradesh

Indian local authorities detained two anti-dam activists as a precautionary measure on Monday Hours before Union Minister of Power and Housing and Urban Affairs, Manohar Lal, embarked on his maiden state visit to Arunachal Pradesh, a state in north-eastern India.

During the Union Power Minister’s visit to Itanagar, authorities held activist lawyer Ebo Mili and Siang Indigenous Farmers’ Forum (SIFF) convener Dunge Apang for over 10 hours. They released them after the activists signed a peace bond under section 128 of the Bharatiya Nagarik Surkasha Sanhita (previously the Code of Criminal Procedure), each facing a penalty of INR 50,000 ($598,73) for any breach.

Police justified the detentions, citing credible sources indicating potential disruptions to a public meeting involving the chief minister, and the union minister. Anti-dam organizations, however, asserted the activists were peacefully advocating against the proliferation of dam construction in the state.

The activists’ detentions coincided with widespread power outages and flooding downstream of existing hydroelectric plants, highlighting tensions between development initiatives and environmental concerns in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh highlighted a productive meeting with the power minister, emphasizing the importance of ongoing projects in meeting the state’s power needs and contributing to the national grid. Union Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s visit aligned with similar visits by Union Ministers Kiren Rijiju and Piyush Goyal, underscoring the central government’s focus on hydropower projects in the region.

Multiple forums criticised the project as well as the arrests stating that “such actions by the state government infringe upon the fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution, particularly the rights to oppose, freedom of speech and expression, and the right to movement”. Critics argue these projects, while essential for energy security, often bypass local consultation, raising environmental and social justice concerns.