Community unlawfully evicted by Manipuri govt. faces destitution.
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 second 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: One morning, in the middle of the monsoons, inhabitants of Yaipha Leikai Lamphel area in Imphal city were taken by surprise when the authorities arrived at their doorstep to force them out of their homes. In one day this community lost their homes and belongings, which they had built up little by little over a span of 50 years.Three days prior to the day of eviction the court had issued an order to make space for a new building, but the concerned officials had disregarded their duty to inform the people. Neither the government nor the local responsible departments have reimbursed the community for the loss and the trauma.
The 17 evicted families were abandoned to rebuild their lives in an allocated wetland area nearby. Without the proper means, the wetlands of the district make for difficult living. Water-levels and soil density constantly change. Living conditions are unhygienic. The summer heat records a high of 48 degrees Celsius and the bitter winters, a low of 6. The monsoons bring thunderstorms. In such extreme conditions, appropriate housing is essential to safeguard the health and lives of community members from the environment, weather and illness.
The government has failed to provide shelter and the most basic of amenities to these vulnerable people. Instead the people have been forced to live in terrible and inadequate housing conditions throughout the year. They have been left with nothing and at the mercy of the elements.
The Community Correspondent says: IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Achungmei Kamei is from Imphal and lives close to the evicted area. Achungmei was shocked by the state of the area: “When I saw the demolished houses and the children’s eyes looking at me asking for help, I was felt the urgent need to help these people. As I work with another community here that faces eviction as well, I put the two communities in touch. Straight away, they supported the evicted community, offered solidarity and donated 50 kg rice. If only the government would care as much for its citizens and try to protect them from losing their livelihood.”
The Issue: The process of the Yaipha Leikai Lamphel eviction and the aftermath have been conducted in an unlawful manner. The government and responsible bodies have failed the people of the area in several ways.
According to the Manipur Public Premises Act, 1978 the concerned community of an eviction must be informed three days beforehand. In this instance, the eviction order was issued on the 3rd June 2011, but was not delivered till the morning of 5th June 2011. The officials even asked the community to vacate their homes on the same day at 5 in the evening. The time given to the inhabitants of the area was 12 hours. Vacating in this minimal timespan is impossible. As the legally binding 3 days notice has not been met, the law has been violated by the enforcing authorities and therefore, the evictions were clearly illegal.
Furthermore, the evicted families had nowhere to relocate themselves than the adjoining areas submerged by the overflowing water of the wetlands. The living conditions are inappropriate and a serious threat to people’s health.
The eviction took place 10 days before the final exams of the children. With insufficient support and in midst of the upheaval, many discontinued their studies. The evicted community approached the local government with their situation, but received no help. The Right to Education Protection Authority, Manipur (REPA) has the obligation to ensure that children between the age group of 6 to 14 years receive education without any kind of discrimination. The REPA should have provided educational support to the children so they continue their studies and finish their final exams.
Call to Action: The community and residents of Yaipha Leikai at Lamphelpat want to return to their original site of settlement. They request that the illegally conducted eviction order be revoked. For the loss of their belongings, they want to be reimbursed with appropriate rehabilitation schemes from the government.
In future, development projects that require the eviction of communities have to be conducted in a participatory and transparent manner. Only after the free, prior and informed consent of the people must the project begin. Adequate space for relocation must be provided to the community and they must be given enough time to make the transition. Fundamental rights and basic amenities must be guaranteed.The people must be given a fair chance to begin their new lives.
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 .
Wide Angle Social Development Organization: Misusing the Law and Failure of Justice: A Case of Lamphel Yaipha Leikai Eviction, 15.Juli 2011: