Thirty-three year old daily-wager Dondup Chonjey, who was hit by a bullet when police opened fire on a crowd that demanded release of anti-dam activist Lama Lobsang Gyatso last Monday, is determined to go back and join the movement once released from hospital.
Undergoing treatment following a five-hour long surgery on his left arm where he sustained a major bullet injury outside the Tawang police station on May 2, Chonjey insists the police had fired upon the crowd without much provocation.
While two persons lost their lives in that firing, Chonjey is among 10 others who have suffered serious injuries. “Once cured, I will once again go and join Lama Gyatso’s movement against hydel dams. These dams, which have the backing of some rich politicians, have to be stopped at any cost,” he said.
“Yes, the crowd was swelling. But nobody had thrown a stone. All of us were only shouting slogans demanding the release of Lama Lobsang Gyatso. Yes, there was lot of pressure on the police station gate as the crowd kept swelling. Then suddenly the police opened fire. I was hit by a bullet on my left arm even when I was running away for cover,” Chonjey, who is now worried out money, said, sitting on his hospital bed in DownTown Hospital in Guwahati. He needs a lot of money.
“The hospital bill here in seven days, including the operation, has already crossed Rs 1.16 lakh. Doctors say, I will have to stay here for at least four weeks. I don’t know how much money is required till then. I have only heard that our chief minister has announced some money for those injured. But so far no government officer has visited me here,” Chonjey said.
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul had on May 3 announced Rs 4 lakh each for those killed in the firing incident and Rs 2 lakh each to those critically injured.
“Rs 2 lakh is too little. Even then, I don’t know when and how I will get that money,” Chonjey said.
Father of two sons – seven and four years old – Chonjey is worried what would happen if he has to stay in a hospital for four weeks.
“My wife too is not keeping well. My brothers are helping me as much as they can. But they too have their own problems,” Chonjey said.
A resident of Sakyur village near Lumla, about 30 kms west of Tawang, Chonjey has been part of Lama Lobsang Gyatse’s anti-dam movement under the banner of ‘Save Mon Region Federation’ (SMRF) for over two years now.
“I have accompanied him on many of his campaigns including collecting signatures door-to-door against the hydel dam projects,” said Chonjey.
While another person – Rinchin – is currently in an ICU of the same hospital as Chonjey in Guwahati, yet another person called Wangpo Thutan (44) is undergoing treatment in Hayat Hospital in Guwahati for a bullet injury on his right thigh.
“I was among the 2000-odd people protesting by shouting slogans demanding Lama Gyatso’s release when a bullet hit me on my right thigh on May 2,” Thutan said. Thutan had traveled about 11 kms from his village Bomba to join the protests demanding Lama Gyatso’s release.
“Doctors here have said I will have to be in the hospital for at least six weeks. I am a small farmer. While I require several lakh rupees to get my leg cured, I don’t know what will happen to my family all these weeks,” Thutan, also a die-hard supporter of Gyatso said.
Lama Gyatso, a Mysore-educated Lama who was attached to the 336-year old Tawang Monastery, was arrested on April 28 after Zilla Parishad chairman Jambey Tsering lodged an FIR accusing him of allegedly questioning the nationality of Guru Tulku Rinpoche, abbot of the Tawang Monastery.
“Lama Gyatso had also asked why the Rinpoche was taking sides with those supporting the hydel dam projects,” Chonjey said.