Protests against Neelum-Jhelum hydro power plant intensify in Muzaffarabad

Muzaffarabad (Pakistan occupied Kashmir): Anger against local government and Islamabad has snowballed into a simmering outrage in the Muzaffarabad city of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

A large number of residents carried out a protest march and shouted slogans against Pakistan and China, accusing them of looting their resources.

The locals are deprived of even drinking water as the River Neelum is drying up due to the construction of a dam.

The locals, led by traders and activists, carried out protests and a shutter down strike against the administration, which, they claim, has acted against the interest of the common people.

Demonstrations, strikes, and protests have, however, become a part of the PoK’s political circuit but have remained unsuccessful at forging anything concrete for the people of the region.

Dejected with just sympathies given by the administration, activists say they are mulling over knocking at the doors of international organisations.

A local activist, in his speech, said, “It is futile to demand your rights from a toothless government. How long are we going to demand our rights from the Pakistan government? If we do not get a satisfactory response here then we will go to an international forum. It is a matter of our life.

Similar protests took place in front of UNHRC in Geneva and Pakistan High Commission in London as well. People from London are also part of our committee and have been supporting us.”

“I request you to consider it as your personal matter. This issue is of all. If somebody believes that life is possible in Muzaffarabad even after the water of Neelum is controlled or stopped then he is living in a fool’s paradise,” he added.

Islamabad has, for years, been plundering the resources of the occupied territory and filling its coffers, leaving people reeling from abject poverty.

Since the advent of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Islamabad has stepped up its devious activities of grabbing the land and resources of PoK. Locals say Islamabad is exploiting them to please its Chinese masters.

Pakistan, which claims to have given autonomous rights to PoK has, in reality, treated it as its colony with no honour being accorded to its elected assembly.

Addressing the protestors, another activist said, “A conspiracy has been hatched to destroy Muzaffarabad. First, they destroyed Muzaffarabad by not signing any agreement and then they made us realize that PoK assembly has no power and reputation. Here, the Prime Minister announces that a certain project will not be built. A local MLA also reinforces his decision and what we see is that the project gets inaugurated in the next 24 hours”.

Ever since the construction of the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, the River Neelum, passing through Muzaffarabad, appears as a storm-water drain filled with sewage waste.

The project, which was built in the pretext of bringing prosperity, has deeply affected the lives of common people, with many of them forced to migrate to other places in the country.