By Ashish Bhandari
Gangtok, September 05: In a dramatic turn of events that Samdur village in East Sikkim witnessed today, a walkway first fenced by the army authorities had to be opened after a strong public protest.
In the wee hours of yesterday, the people of Samdur woke up to a shock as the only walkway that led to the highway near MP Golai was fenced by the army, which meant that the only route to Gangtok now was via Ranipool for the Samdur residents. The infuriated locals of Samdur gathered near the fenced walkway and raised placards and slogans against the army authorities.
Samdur, near Gangtok, is inhabited by over 500 households. It is a wide settlement that stretches from MP Golai in Tadong till Ranipool and is adjacent to the military station on its northern end.
Phurba Tamang, a resident of Samdur, said that the walkway had been the bone of contention between civilians and army authorities for quite some time and several petitions had been submitted to the high ranking officials including General Officer Commanding (GOC), Deputy GOC, Lieutenant Colonel and Station Officer in the military station, however the morning’s incident came as an act of aggression that deprived the civilians of their rightful usage of walkway.
The protesters included school students who were uncertain about the new route to their schools. The people gathered were concerned about the long way they had to traverse even when someone needed urgent medical attention.
Bishnu Maya Chettri, one among the protesters informed that for past one week the locals had been guarding the walkway till late night due to reports of army authorities planning to cordon it. Saying that the act of the army is unacceptable, she demanded the immediate removal of the fence to allow their passage.
When asked about the next step, the residents informed about petitioning to the High Court for a stay order with a genuine grievance that all stakeholders were not kept into confidence while taking this sudden step by the military establishment.
A team of police personnel reached the spot to take the stock of the matter and maintain law and order.
By noon the army officials had caved in to the demands of the protesters and removed the fence. A sense of relief prevailed among the local people thereafter.
District Collector (East), Raj Yadav, present on the spot to take stock of the grievances held a meeting with army officials and took their assurance to cause minimum inconvenience to the civilians by keeping the walkway opened till an amicable solution was reached with the intervention of highest authorities of the state, including the Chief Minister.