Manipuris Speak Out Against Forced Evictions.
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 third 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: As the expansion of the Tulihal Aiport in Imphal, Manipur threatens to evict more and more families, voices of dissent are being heard. Human rights organizations and the common people of Manipur are coming together to speak out and rebel against the blatant illegality with which the government is attempting to seize their homes. Invoking the draconian colonial act that is the Land Eviction Act on 1894, the government is putting pressure on the families to relocate without providing for adequate rehabilitation. Not just the humans but the whole landscape, the ponds, the farms, the local schools etc are at stake. But organizations like Human Rights Alert in Imphal are fighting back. They have filed a Public Interest Litigation questioning the legality of the government’s actions. And they have the people of their side.
The Community Correspondent says: Kamei Mercy, firebrand videoactivist from Manipur who documented the dissenting voices of the public and people’s movement against the forced eviction says that itis a very complicated issue. “Some of the people have accepted the compensation given by the government but are now disillusioned and dissatisfied. This has given rise to some internal dispute among the people themselves. This is a big fight and everything is at stake. It is also the larger issue of the government’s anti-people policy and blatant human rights violations. It is important that the people stay together and fight this one out.”
The Issue: The Government is cracking down hard on dissenting voices in Manipur. They do not hesitate in using force to silence the people. Popular voices that have spoken out and agitated against the government have been accused of sedition and conspiring against the state. The National Security Act has been invoked to incarcerate and even torture those who have questioned the government’s plans.
As per the Environment Impact Assessment Notification passed in 2006 by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest, all projects classified as Category A which includes the airport expansion plan of the Manipuri Govt. need the approval of the central government after thorough environmental impact assessment. This approval has not yet been sanctioned but the government has already evicted the people and acquired the land. The Public Interest Litigation questions the flouting of the rules.
Bastankumar Warepa of Human Rights Alert, Imphal categorically states,” “Though the immediate aim of the PIL is to halt the expansion of the Tulihal Airport, the larger issue to resist wanton destruction of life and livelihood in the name of ‘development’ in the NE region including construction of dams, highways and railways, clearing of forest for mining and plantations that are denying many indigenous people their very means of subsistence”.
Call to Action: Instead of being paranoid of dissenting voices, the government must take them into consideration. The government must make the acquiring of land for development a participatory and transparent process in which every party is represented and is given a chance to openly debate and dialogue on the issue. As of now, the dissenting voices of the Manipuri people are asking,” Where is the government when we are in need?”. The government, as usual, is yet to reply.
About the Community Correspondent: One of the most intrepid Community Correspondents in the IndiaUnheard network, Mercy Kamei is from the minority Rongmei Naga Tribal community in Manipur. Taking risks to report hard-hitting stories of insurgency, violence, injustice and neglect, Mercy speaks out for her community and others like them who have been denied basic rights and are wrongly persecuted as enemies of the state and lesser citizens. Fed up with the mainstream media distorting images and stories, she seeks to report raw, undoctored voices from the ground and piece together the real picture. Watch Marcy’s videos here.
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