Imphal, August 10 (MExN): The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRAM), an indigenous peoples human rights organization promoting sustainable development and human rights of indigenous peoples of Manipur, observed the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples from August 8 to 9, with a theme “Uphold indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and resources in Manipur”.
On the first day, a programme was organised at Riha village in Ukhrul district with the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organizers (MDAVO) with a focus to protect the land, forest and river in Mapithel hill and valley and to express resentment and concerns with the plan of IFCD, Government of Manipur to commission Mapithel dam in September 2016, informed a press release from CRAM President, Sanaton Laishram. The protest meet at Riha village was attended by village representatives affected by Mapithel dam along the Mapithel hill and valley.
Dominic Kashung, Chairman, MDAVO presented the key note address.
Headman of Riha village, Wungreisung shared the difficulty faced by the villagers of Riha and others affected by Mapithel dam to sustain with their limited land after most of their land and forest were submerged by Mapithel dam.
Ng Khathing, headman of Thoyee village stressed the need to hold the Government responsible for the destruction of land, forest and water sources in Mapithel hill and valley. “The Government’s refusal to listen and act on the rightful demands of affected communities indicates Mapithel dam is unjust and there is lack of democratic practices,” he stated and expressed worry that the Mapithel dam break will further cause suffering and hardship on communities in Imphal valley as well.
Aram Pamei, Ex-president, Naga Women Union shared how the Government has violated indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and resources and undermined their right to free, prior and informed consent. Joseph Hmar, President, All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) in his sharing condemned the politics of division, confusion among indigenous peoples instead of responding to affected peoples’ call for democratic rights and a just solution to adverse impacts of mega dams.
The participants of the protest meet at Riha village resolved to reject the plan of the Government of Manipur to commission Mapithel dam, to stand united and resist all plans to commission the dam, to urge upon the Government of Manipur to let the Thoubal River flow free by releasing all waters from Mapithel dam reservoir, the release said. It also decided to urge the Government to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and resources. A protest rally to stop commissioning Mapithel dam was held by the participants of the protest meet at Riha village.
The second day of the observation was held on August 9 at Ithing Sendra, jointly organized by Sendra Youth Club, United Club of Thanga and CRAM. Jiten Yumnam, Secretary, CRAM presented the keynote address.
Meipakpi Moirangthem, Sija Khwairakpam, Kabita Khwairakpam, Moirangthem Mona and Mona Laishram, who are presently in relief camp at Ithing, shared on the experience of “forced and merciless eviction” on August 3, 2016 by the state government at Sendra Ithing. At least 21 people were injured during the eviction; many of them were injured with rubber bullets, tear gases as well as lathi charged by the Manipur Police, according to the release.
Moirangthem Ibosana, who is a victim of the recent eviction, shared the “inhuman act” of the state armed force. He narrated how the state government had carried out the recent eviction without proper notice. Dominic Kashung, Chairman, MDAVO, shared on how they have been struggling with impact of Mapithel dam as well as false promise from the state authority. Roshan Jajo, Secretary, MDAVO shared series of violation with the Thoubal multipurpose project, the release added. Phulindro Konsam, Chairman, Committee on Human Rights deliberated on violations of Loktak Project and privatisation at Loktak Lake.
The protest participants resolved to stop forced eviction in Loktak wetlands, uphold indigenous peoples rights over land, repeal Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006, and decommission 105 MW loktak project.
They also resolved to promote indigenous peoples rights and self determined development over their land and resources and to urge upon the Government to recognize indigenous peoples’ human rights and to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 in all decisions impacting the land and lives of indigenous peoples.