Chapter 57 - An Anti-Dam Protest

The Prime Minister of Tawa – 57

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The hundred odd protestors who had gathered in the central square in Eko were quite peaceful and the few policemen who stood nearby looked very relaxed. None of the effigies which they had with them were of Hanoleeyan, Rhymala noted with relief. There was no saying how the policemen would react if some tried to burn Hanoleeyan in effigy. All the policemen were ex-SFF men and were ultra loyal to Hanoleeyan. 

‘Stop building the dam, resettle us first,’ the protestors placards read. A perfectly justified assertion, Rhymala felt. She had made a trip to the site of the dam and it was almost half way through. It was amazing how quickly the work had progressed. The area was filled with workmen and their tents. There was no sign of the genial bearded engineer who had helped her on her last visit, but this time there was no need to talk to someone to find out the rate of progress. If at all, the dam was being constructed ahead of schedule. 

Hanoleeyan was still mad at her. It was as if she was solely responsible for drawing the villagers to Eko by educating them about their rights. ‘If you hadn’t told them all that, they would have moved out on their own and started living elsewhere,’ Hanoleeyan ranted at her. It was not as if there was a scarcity of forest land within Seedaland. There was so much uninhabited land around.  And the villagers led very primitive lives which could be uprooted very easily. 

And as if Hanoleeyan was not rash enough, there were others around him who were even more reckless and stupid than he was. No, Rhymala didn’t say that. She wouldn’t call the Big Chief reckless and stupid. He was the father of the Seeda nation. He had led them to autonomy from the Keendas. But … Rhymala sighed as she observed the protestors through the tinted windows of her car. How else could one describe a man who was willing to listen to advisors who suggested that the displaced villagers should be resettled on the eastern coast adjoining the Central Hill District. Tell the Keendas that they must resettle the displaced villagers on Keenda-owned land, Hanoleeyan was being advised. And what was the rationale for that advice? If ever they were to start fighting for an independent Seedaland once more, they would be able to claim a chunk of the eastern coast as a part of Seedaland if Seedas lived there! 

Many years ago, the Seedas had massacred many Keendas on the eastern coast with the ultimate objective of claiming that very same chunk of the eastern coast as part of Seedaland. Two of Hanoleeyan’s brothers had led that ethnic cleansing expedition and got killed on their way back.  So far, a formal demand to settle the villagers on the eastern coast had not been made. However, Rhymala was not sure that it would not be made. Hanoleeyan himself seemed to be spoiling for a fight. He had grown tired of sitting around at home, listening to his pregnant young wife who had now started nagging him. 

To be honest, Rhymala was not very clear as to what the current position was on the controversy. The Economic Affairs Minister was handling the negotiations with Hepara and Rhymala was being deliberately kept out of the loop. They didn’t trust her to not take the people’s side. ‘You stick to your Technology Ministry,’ Hanoleeyan had told her firmly when she met him last. 

The protestors seem to have decided to move on from where they were. Rhymala wondered where they could be headed to. They were moving in a direction which would take them away from the heart of Eko and the offices of the Autonomous Council. No, no, surely they were not planning to protest in front of the Tawan army garrison, were they? Rhymala lowered the window of her car and beckoned one of the policemen over. ‘Where are those people going?’ she asked him. 

‘They are going towards the Keenda army base. We’ll have fun!’

‘You should stop them,’ Rhymala said. There was no saying how the Tawan soldiers would react when confronted by a Seeda crowd.

‘Oh, it’s fine Chief,’ the policeman told her. He seemed to have recognised her. ‘They’ll only wave their placards in front of those Keenda soldiers and leave.’

‘Can’t you stop them?’ Rhymala asked.

‘Why should we? We’ve been asked to allow them to protest in front of the Keenda soldiers. After all, they are the ones causing the problem, aren’t they?’

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More by :  Vinod Joseph

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