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India: Villagers Face Imminent Forced Eviction At A Dam Site

Asian Human Rights Commission -- Urgent Appeals Programme
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-191-2012
1 November 2012

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India: Villagers Face Imminent Forced Eviction At A Dam Site In Manipur
Issues: Right To Life, Rule Of Law, Corruption, Environmental Protection
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Send an Appeal Letter
Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organisation and the Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur that the villagers of Riha, Thawai, Lamlai Khullen, Chadong along the Thoubal River in Ukhrul district, Manipur are likely to be evicted by force to complete the construction of the Mapithel Dam, which is part of the Thoubal Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project in Manipur. While the villagers do not want to stand in way of a development project, all that they are demanding is that the compensation and rehabilitation package should be satisfactory and executed through a transparent and accountable process. The villagers also allege that the current process of the Manipur state government has ignored the fact that several other villagers living upstream of the project and those who live immediately after the Mapithel dam are not accounted for compensation and rehabilitation by the state government. (Photo: Forced verification undertaken by JVT with police assistance)

There is also an allegation that the state government, through the office of the District Commissioner (DC), is depending upon a disputed list that includes names of people who have never resided in the villages affected by the project. The villagers suspect that the inclusion of persons and households that in fact does not exist is with an intention for the state government officers to illegally appropriate the compensation money in fictitious names. The DC has declared a prohibitory order under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1974 in the region and a large contingent of state police as well as soldiers from the Indian military are stationed in the region.

It appears that the attempt by the state government is to force its arbitrary writ upon the poor villagers, to suit the prospective illegal benefit of some state government employees with the concurrence of officers and politicians at the state capital, Imphal. The 20 member Expert Review Committee (ERC) constituted earlier by the state government and concurred by the Governor of the state by virtue of an order issued by the Governor on 18 January 2008 in which the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organisation is represented through their Chairperson, is now overlooked by the state government, after it issued a legally non-tenable and subsequent order dated 28 September 2012 constituting a Joint Verification Team that excludes the mandate of the earlier constituted ERC.

The situation now is explosive on the ground and warrants immediate intervention. If the unacceptable verification continues, and the villagers evicted by force, it could lead to loss of life and peace in the locality.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The Government of Manipur is threatening to forcefully evict and relocate the villagers of Chadong, Lamlai Khullen in Ukhrul district of Manipur for the construction of Mapithel Dam, which is part of the Thoubal Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project. A large contingent of state police as well as the Indian military is stationed in the district. The DC has proclaimed emergency in the region under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code, 1974, which renders gathering of persons and organising of protests, a penal offence. The villagers accuse the state government that this proclamation alone is evidence to the fact that the government is attempting to smother their voice.

The villagers are demanding that the state government must immediately convene the Expert Review Committee (ERC) formed on 18 January 2008 by the state government and allow the ERC to look into aspects of eviction, compensation and rehabilitation, instead of a forced eviction based on a report allegedly being prepared by a Joint Verification Team against the wish of the villagers and also against government's own order. The controversial Mapithel Dam is being built over Thoubal River at point where the boundaries of Ukhrul, Senapati and Imphal East districts of Manipur meet.

The Government of Manipur issued an order on 28 September, 2012 constituting a Joint Verification Team, comprising of officials from the state Irrigation and Flood Control Department, the Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul District and state Tribal Development Department. The JVT is to identify the families affected by the construction of the Mapithel Dam at Chadong and Lamlai Khunou villages in Ukhrul district. The villagers challenge the constitution of the JVT since according to them it undermines the function and mandate of the ERC, which was also constituted by the state government. It is important to mention here that the villagers had their representation in the ERC. The state government constituted the ERC on 18 January 2008.

The ERC is mandated to look into the socio-economic, environmental, health, cultural and human rights impacts of Mapithel Dam and also to resolve the rehabilitation and resettlement of affected communities. For this a proper assessment of the villages affected by the project has to be undertaken by the ERC. However the state government without letting this to happen is pushing ahead with the project with the constitution of the JVT, which only represents the state government.

Equally alarming is the order issued by the DC directing the JVT to undertake the verification, with police force if required, and that his findings cannot be appealed against. In fact the DC has no executive or judicial authority to issue such an arbitrary order. In addition the DC is the lowest government officer in the state in charge of a district, and with the rank equivalent to a Superintendent of Police. For such an officer, having limited executive authority to issue such a final order is not allowed in law in India. At the very least such an order cannot overrule the prohibitory injunctory authority of a Munsiff (lowest civil judge in India), should the case be taken up in local courts.

The JVC in the meanwhile has started verification of families in Lamlai Khunou and Chadong villages from 29 October 2012. There is a heavy military deployment in the villages to threaten and silence the villagers that will rule out public protests.

The villagers allege that this forceful verification by a hurriedly and clandestinely constituted JVT is to show that a disproportionately large number of persons and families as affected by the project in the JVT report. This, the villagers suspect will result in radical reduction of compensation and rehabilitation packages and at the same time, the compensation awarded in the name of fictitious names would be illegally pocketed by the corrupt state government officers. The villagers assert that it is for this that the JVT is allegedly using a disputed family list from 2011. (Photo: Mapithel Dam at the current stage of construction)

The villagers also allege that those who protest against the dam, the absence of any form of rehabilitation and compensation are threatened and harassed by the state police and the government officials. To substantiate they quote an incident from 3 November 2008 when the Indian Reserve Battalion tortured and brutally assaulted some 40 villagers who were engaged in peaceful protest against the dam and the project.

The Mapithel Dam construction commenced in 1978 without seeking free prior and informed consent of the affected villagers both in the downstream and upstream areas. No detailed health, environmental, social, cultural, economic and seismic impact assessment of the project upon the people, habitat and the Thoubal River itself was conducted. It is today known that the Mapithel Dam will, upon completion submerge a large area of prime agricultural land along the Thoubal River and will in fact lead to severe water shortage that will have adverse impact upon the villagers. People living in Tumukhong, Itham, Moirangpurel, Laikhong, and Saichang villages would be directly affected by the project. Today the same villagers fear that the JVT's verification would lead to their forced eviction and involuntary relocation.

Two government notifications, one a cabinet memorandum by the Government of Manipur issued on 24 September 2011, and the other an office memorandum issued by the DC and the Irrigation and Flood Control Department issued on 13 June 2011 wrongly claims that only two villages, Lamlai Khullen and Chadong village, out of the 16 villages affected are left to be rehabilitated and resettled. This undermines the very existence of the ERC, which has representations from the state Agriculture Department, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, State Environment and Ecology Board, the Manipur State Pollution Control Board, state Forest Department, Manipur Fisheries Department and above all the representatives from the affected villages.

The cabinet memorandum of 24 September 2011 is also fundamentally misleading. The completion report of overall rehabilitation and the rehabilitation of Louphong, Phayang and two other villages, that mentioned in the memorandum is not true. Four villages, Chadong, Lamlai Khullen, Lamlai Khunou, Lamlai Monbung would be completely submerged by the dam and another six villages, Sikiphung, Thawai, Thawai (K), Zalengbung, Sankai, Riha and those living in the upstream of the dam will be affected. They find no place in the memorandum. It is estimated that sixteen villages will be directly and indirectly affected by Mapithel Dam. Limiting impacts to only six villages indicates that no proper impact assessment or survey is held prior to the sanctioning of the project. In addition conditions have drastically changed when the project was originally conceived in 1978 to what it is today.

The villagers allege that the state government is secretly negotiating with a selected group of villagers that is intended to create division, conflict and chaos in the community. The Government of Manipur with its efforts to forge secret agreements with a few affected people without the consent of all affected communities, only violates the right to free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples, which the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. James Anaya urged the Government of India for full adherence in his communication on Mapithel Dam on 24 June 2009. India responded to Mr. James Anaya’s letter on 4 June 2010, maintaining that the government had instituted the Expert Review Committee. It is this very ERC that is been over shadowed by the JVT.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities mentioned below demanding immediate intervention and to stop the activities by the JVT. Instead the ERC should be allowed to fulfil its mandate.
The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples calling for an intervention in the case.
To support this appeal, please click here: Send an Appeal Letter
SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ______,

INDIA: Stop forceful eviction and involuntary relocation of villagers affected by Mapithel Dam in Manipur

Name of the victims:
Affected villagers of Mapithel Dam along the Thoubal River in Mapithel Range and Valley
Name of the Perpetrators:
Government of Manipur
Date of incident:
October 2012
Place of incident: Ukhrul district, Manipur

I am writing to express my concern regarding the alleged threat of forceful eviction of eviction and involuntary relocation of villagers affected by Mapithel Dam in Manipur.

The facts of the case reported to me are as follows:

I am informed by the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organisation and the Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur that the villagers of Riha, Thawai, Lamlai Khullen, Chadong along the Thoubal River in Ukhrul district, Manipur are likely to be evicted by force to complete the construction of the Mapithel Dam, which is part of the Thoubal Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project in Manipur. While the villagers do not want to stand in way of a development project, all that they are demanding is that the compensation and rehabilitation package should be satisfactory and executed through a transparent and accountable process. The villagers also allege that the current process of the Manipur state government has ignored the fact that several other villagers living upstream of the project and those who live immediately after the Mapithel dam are not accounted for compensation and rehabilitation by the state government.

There is also an allegation that the state government, through the office of the District Commissioner (DC), is depending upon a disputed list that includes names of people who have never resided in the villages affected by the project. The villagers suspect that the inclusion of persons and households that in fact does not exist is with an intention for the state government officers to illegally appropriate the compensation money in fictitious names. The DC has declared a prohibitory order under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1974 in the region and a large contingent of state police as well as soldiers from the Indian military are stationed in the region.

It appears that the attempt by the state government is to force its arbitrary writ upon the poor villagers, to suit the prospective illegal benefit of some state government employees with the concurrence of officers and politicians at the state capital, Imphal. The 20 member Expert Review Committee (ERC) constituted earlier by the state government and concurred by the Governor of the state by virtue of an order issued by the Governor on 18 January 2008 in which the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organisation is represented through their Chairperson, is now overlooked by the state government, after it issued a legally non-tenable and subsequent order dated 28 September 2012 constituting a Joint Verification Team that excludes the mandate of the earlier constituted ERC.

The situation now is explosive on the ground and warrants immediate intervention. If the unacceptable verification continues, and the villagers evicted by force, it could lead to loss of life and peace in the locality.

The Government of Manipur is threatening to forcefully evict and relocate the villagers of Chadong, Lamlai Khullen in Ukhrul district of Manipur for the construction of Mapithel Dam, which is part of the Thoubal Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project. A large contingent of state police as well as the Indian military is stationed in the district. The DC has proclaimed emergency in the region under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code, 1974, which renders gathering of persons and organising of protests, a penal offence. The villagers accuse the state government that this proclamation alone is evidence to the fact that the government is attempting to smother their voice.

The villagers are demanding that the state government must immediately convene the Expert Review Committee (ERC) formed on 18 January 2008 by the state government and allow the ERC to look into aspects of eviction, compensation and rehabilitation, instead of a forced eviction based on a report allegedly being prepared by a Joint Verification Team against the wish of the villagers and also against government's own order. The controversial Mapithel Dam is being built over Thoubal River at point where the boundaries of Ukhrul, Senapati and Imphal East districts of Manipur meet.

The Government of Manipur issued an order on 28 September, 2012 constituting a Joint Verification Team, comprising of officials from the state Irrigation and Flood Control Department, the Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul District and state Tribal Development Department. The JVT is to identify the families affected by the construction of the Mapithel Dam at Chadong and Lamlai Khunou villages in Ukhrul district. The villagers challenge the constitution of the JVT since according to them it undermines the function and mandate of the ERC, which was also constituted by the state government. It is important to mention here that the villagers had their representation in the ERC. The state government constituted the ERC on 18 January 2008.

The ERC is mandated to look into the socio-economic, environmental, health, cultural and human rights impacts of Mapithel Dam and also to resolve the rehabilitation and resettlement of affected communities. For this a proper assessment of the villages affected by the project has to be undertaken by the ERC. However the state government without letting this to happen is pushing ahead with the project with the constitution of the JVT, which only represents the state government.

Equally alarming is the order issued by the DC directing the JVT to undertake the verification, with police force if required, and that his findings cannot be appealed against. In fact the DC has no executive or judicial authority to issue such an arbitrary order. In addition the DC is the lowest government officer in the state in charge of a district, and with the rank equivalent to a Superintendent of Police. For such an officer, having limited executive authority to issue such a final order is not allowed in law in India. At the very least such an order cannot overrule the prohibitory injunctory authority of a Munsiff (lowest civil judge in India), should the case be taken up in local courts.

The JVC in the meanwhile has started verification of families in Lamlai Khunou and Chadong villages from 29 October 2012. There is a heavy military deployment in the villages to threaten and silence the villagers that will rule out public protests.

The villagers allege that this forceful verification by a hurriedly and clandestinely constituted JVT is to show that a disproportionately large number of persons and families as affected by the project in the JVT report. This, the villagers suspect will result in radical reduction of compensation and rehabilitation packages and at the same time, the compensation awarded in the name of fictitious names would be illegally pocketed by the corrupt state government officers. The villagers assert that it is for this that the JVT is allegedly using a disputed family list from 2011.

The villagers also allege that those who protest against the dam, the absence of any form of rehabilitation and compensation are threatened and harassed by the state police and the government officials. To substantiate they quote an incident from 3 November 2008 when the Indian Reserve Battalion tortured and brutally assaulted some 40 villagers who were engaged in peaceful protest against the dam and the project.

The Mapithel Dam construction commenced in 1978 without seeking free prior and informed consent of the affected villagers both in the downstream and upstream areas. No detailed health, environmental, social, cultural, economic and seismic impact assessment of the project upon the people, habitat and the Thoubal River itself was conducted. It is today known that the Mapithel Dam will, upon completion submerge a large area of prime agricultural land along the Thoubal River and will in fact lead to severe water shortage that will have adverse impact upon the villagers. People living in Tumukhong, Itham, Moirangpurel, Laikhong, and Saichang villages would be directly affected by the project. Today the same villagers fear that the JVT's verification would lead to their forced eviction and involuntary relocation.

Two government notifications, one a cabinet memorandum by the Government of Manipur issued on 24 September 2011, and the other an office memorandum issued by the DC and the Irrigation and Flood Control Department issued on 13 June 2011 wrongly claims that only two villages, Lamlai Khullen and Chadong village, out of the 16 villages affected are left to be rehabilitated and resettled. This undermines the very existence of the ERC, which has representations from the state Agriculture Department, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, State Environment and Ecology Board, the Manipur State Pollution Control Board, state Forest Department, Manipur Fisheries Department and above all the representatives from the affected villages.

The cabinet memorandum of 24 September 2011 is also fundamentally misleading. The completion report of overall rehabilitation and the rehabilitation of Louphong, Phayang and two other villages, that mentioned in the memorandum is not true. Four villages, Chadong, Lamlai Khullen, Lamlai Khunou, Lamlai Monbung would be completely submerged by the dam and another six villages, Sikiphung, Thawai, Thawai (K), Zalengbung, Sankai, Riha and those living in the upstream of the dam will be affected. They find no place in the memorandum. It is estimated that sixteen villages will be directly and indirectly affected by Mapithel Dam. Limiting impacts to only six villages indicates that no proper impact assessment or survey is held prior to the sanctioning of the project. In addition conditions have drastically changed when the project was originally conceived in 1978 to what it is today.

The villagers allege that the state government is secretly negotiating with a selected group of villagers that is intended to create division, conflict and chaos in the community. The Government of Manipur with its efforts to forge secret agreements with a few affected people without the consent of all affected communities, only violates the right to free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples, which the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. James Anaya urged the Government of India for full adherence in his communication on Mapithel Dam on 24 June 2009. India responded to Mr. James Anaya’s letter on 4 June 2010, maintaining that the government had instituted the Expert Review Committee. It is this very ERC that is been over shadowed by the JVT.

I therefore request you that:

1. To immediately stop the activities of the illegally constituted JVT and let the ERC be convened and allowed to fulfil its mandate;
2. Review Mapithel Dam construction with a more informed understanding of the project's impact upon the lives of indigenous communities living along the Thoubal River and stop Mapithel dam construction till completion of such reviews;
3. The ERC on Mapithel dam formed on 18 January 2008 should be revived and resumed as since it is the legitimate wish of all the villagers affected by Mapithel dam with full reference for implementation of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
4. The notifications by the Government of Manipur dated 28 September 2012 and the Cabinet Memorandum dated 24 September 2011 for Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Mapithel Dam affected villagers be revoked immediately;
5. Implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, Mr. James Anaya on Mapithel Dam, especially to seek and obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples for any decision on Mapithel dam construction and stop militarisation in the region;
6. No forcible eviction and relocation of all communities affected by Mapithel Dam without their free, prior and informed consent as outlined in international covenants that India is party to;
7. Implement the Recommendations of the World Commission on Dams for review of the ongoing dam construction for its compliance with human rights, development and indigenous peoples’ rights;
8. Fully implement all the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Sincerely,

---------------------------------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. The Prime Minister of India,
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi, 110 101
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2301 9545 / 11 2301 6857

2. Home Minister
Government of Gujarat
Block No.2, 3rd Floor
New Sachivalay
Gandhinagar - 382 010, Gujarat
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23250501
E-mail: pshome@gujarat.gov.in

3. Mr. Okram Ibobi Singh
Chief Minister of Manipur
New Secretariat Building
Bapupara, Imphal, Manipur
INDIA
Fax + 91 385 2451398
E-mail: cmmani@hub.nic.in

4. Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of Gujarat
Block No.5, 8th Floor
Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar
Gujarat
INDIA

5. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of India
Shastri Bhawan, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi - 110 001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 23384918
E-mail: min-sje@sb.nic.in

6. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2338 6521
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

Send an Appeal Letter

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Visit our new website with more features at www.humanrights.asia.

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ENDS

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