Meet The Buddhist Monk Who's Taking On Arunachal Pradesh's Chief Minister

A monk at the 17th-century Tawang monastery, Lama Lobsang Gyatso is a member of Save Mon Region Federation

Lama Lobsang Gyatso, a 39-year-old Buddhist monk, will contest Mukto assembly seat in Arunachal Pradesh against Chief Minister Pema Khandu. Since 1999, the MLAs in the constituency, along the India-China border, has been elected without a contest.

Attached to the 17th-century Tawang monastery, Gyatso is the co-founder of Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF). He has led movements against mega-dam projects, alleging that they engulf the farmland in the high-risk seismic zone.

In April 2016, he was arrested for his opposition to two proposed mega dams in the district. On May 2 the same year, the police opened fire on protesters demanding his release, killing two monks.

Gyatso told PTI,

“There has been lot (sic) of protests and unrest among the people over dam construction. We have moved several platforms against the projects, which are ”anti-people”. In spite of our legal battle and democratic movements, we have not been able to close the chapter. I live life like a fugitive, often having to move in disguise to avoid those who have opposed our protests against the dam projects, which have been cleared without abiding by the environmental norms.”

Gyatso, who has been associated with the Anna Hazare movement against corruption, also wanted to contest in the 2014 elections. Arunachal Pradesh assembly elections will be held concurrently with the Lok Sabha elections on April 11, 2019.