Manipuri Govt. plans to evict 500 people to build a five-star hotel.
Since independence, over 10 crore Indians have been displaced in the name of development. They have been forcibly uprooted from their homes, farmlands, fishing areas and forests to make way for dam reservoirs, irrigation projects, mines, plantations, highways, and tourist resorts. Less than 20% have ever been rehabilitated.
This is the last of four videos that Video Volunteers produced in partnership with international media and human rights ngo WITNESS and Imphal-based human rights group Human Rights Alert which attempt to document the stories and ground realities of Forced Evictions in North-East India. We hope their voices will prevail.
About the Video: Under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 Manipur government claims privately owned land of the Nagar River Colony for Private Public Purpose (PPP). The planned PPP ‘development' project will replace 32 houses with one five star hotel. Over 500 inhabitants will be evicted from their own land. The decision to convert the area into a playground for the rich was made without the people's consent.
The community organised a sitting protest. Their demands were clear: They did not want to leave their homes and requested to be part of any decisions made on their land. The government tried to intimidate the community by sending in armed forces to disband the protests. The officers told them that they had no right for a protest and pressurized them to agree to the eviction. The people held up their protest for a month which was widely covered by the local press.
The community received an offer for resettlement on the outskirts of the city, in Mantripukhri. This was unacceptable to the community, which works in and around the Nagar River Colony. Moreover, the government was moving in unplanned with no set guidelines for reimbursement and rehabilitation.
The Community Correspondent says: Achungmei Kamei, IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent from Manipur, was actively involved in the protests of the Nagar River Colony against the government plans. She also documented the confrontation with the police on her camera: "Only after the community started to inquire about any government plans for their lands, the government started to assess the area officially. During the protests the atmosphere was tense. The government did not consider the rights of the community as citizens. They treated them more like intruders."
Achungmei is astonished by the treatment of this community: "Why does the government want to destroy such a good example of mixed culture community in Manipur? One of my relatives lives here, so I know this community very well. It is one of the few areas in this state, where Muslims, Hindus, Christians as well as many ethnicities, like Meitis, Nagas and Kukis live peacefully as one community. The people here have a strong ties to each other and will continue to speak up for their rights until the government starts to realise that it should be protecting its people instead of threatening them."
The Issue: In June 2011 the All Indian Christian Committee sent out a Fact Finding Committee to inquire about the circumstances of this undemocratic decision making process. From the data they collected, they suspect that the Manipur Government has vested interests in the agenda of renovating the Imphal Hotel. They are of the opinion that the eviction is being carried to appease private investors who are looking for a stake in this prime property in the heart of the city. In this case a forced eviction of the area would be unlawful according to the specifics of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894.
The government has also put the area under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The law is imposed in cases of expected emergency for public life. There is a constant heavy police presence and protests are prohibited.
If this rich multicultural area will be demolished it violates the freedom of faith guaranteed under the constitution. The Committee fears that this may aggravate the situation and may in future become a communal and ethnic issue with outsiders becoming involved. Especially, In addition the land of the colony has become very expensive and the community now even fears to be robbed of their registration papers, which states their legal rights on the land.
Call to Action: The Nagar River Community still fears eviction and requests the government to begin face-to-face discussions to respond to their apprehensions. A fair solution for all parties should be
analysed in an open, transparent and participatory process. It must be recognised that a private public purpose model requires the benefit of the public and not a few.
Effected communities must be given a chance to be a part of development projects that require their land. Above all this, the livelihood, security, and -community life must not be disrupted.
About Community Correspondent: She has always been an outsider. In her home state of Manipur, Achungmei Kamei is caught between the state who insists she’s Indian and the separatists who call for a separate Naga country. When she moved to Bangalore for further studies, her classmates kept mistaking her for Chinese or Korean or Nepali but definitely not an Indian. She completed her degree in Mass Communications and returned to her state to work for the national radio station. Back home, she once again saw divisions- blockades, strikes, violence etc. that were forcing her to choose sides. It is this precarious situation and the stories of the innocent people caught in between that she wants to report to the world. Watch her videos here.
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