Urgent Appeal: Assault & Torture of ten Meitei women by Manipur police

Dear friends,

I would like to forward you all an urgent appeal on a brutality unleashed by the Manipur police again on peaceful protestors campaigning against the Manipur Loktak Protection Act, 2006 on 19 December 2011 at Thanga in Bishenpur District Manipur, which has led to injury of 10 women belonging to the Meitei people of Manipur. The provisions of this draconian act has led to unleashing of state terror in the form of arson and destruction of floating huts of fisherolk communities depending on Loktak wetlands for generations.

Displaced women after the arsoning of floating huts by Loktak Lake

The police in an attempt to disperse the protestors resorted to baton charge, physical assault and even firing of around 200 live rounds of ammunitions, including from sophisticated guns in the air, which has caused shock and panic among the community members, already victimized due to displacement from livelihood sources. No women police personnel were involved in the crackdown of the protest. The Government of Manipur, though its Loktak Development Authority has been blaming the indigenous peoples dwelling in Loktak lake for polluting and causing contamination of the Lake. However, the impact of Ithai Barrage of the Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project, commissioned in 1984, which led to huge scale devastation of Loktak wetland wetlands ecosystem, has not been considered and completely ignored.

Eviction Order of LDA

Pls find attached the Urgent Appeal which is also outlined below and also the pictures of the Manipur police during the violent action last evening on 19 Dec along with some of the injured women and affected villagers. A copy of the order of the Loktak Development Authroity which facilitated the arsoning is also inclosed along with the Media reports since the arsoning commenced on 15 December. I would also like to request the kind interventions of yoru respected organizations and to further disseminate this appeal.

Best regards and thanking you all in advance,

Jiten Yumnam
Joint Secretary,
Citizens’ Concern for Dams and Development
Paona Bazar, Imphal Manipur NE India 795001
e-add: mangangmacha@gmail.com, ccddne@yahoo.co.in, jitnyumnam@yahoo.co.in
Ph: 91 9774328712

URGENT APPEAL

PHYSICAL ASSAULT AND TORTURE OF TEN MEITEI WOMEN CAMPAIGNING AGAINST ARSON AND DISPLACEMENT FROM LOKTAK LAKE UNDER THE MANIPUR LOKTAK LAKE PROTECTION ACT 2006 BY MANIPUR POLICE ON 19 DECEMBER 2011 AT THANGA

INCIDENT: Physical Assault and torture of Ten (10) Meitei women by Manipur Police while campaigning against the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006 and subsequent displacement at Thanga, Bishenpur District, Manipur on 19 December 2011.

IDENTIFICATION OF VICTIMS

(With specifications of injuries sustained in assault and violence unleashed by the Manipur police)

Police with batons bear down on female protestors over Loktak evictions

1. Ms. Ningthoujam Gitarani, w/o N. Sanjoy of Thanga Oinam Leikai, Bishenpur District
(Back pain and injury due to gun butt charge)
2. Ms. Oinam Nongallei w/o Oinam Binoy of Thanga Oinam Leikai, Bishenpur District (chest pain due to gun butt and baton charge)
3. Ms. Salam Memcha w/o Salam Tomba of Thanga Salam Leikai, Bishenpur District (back and chest pain due to baton charge)
4. Ms. Oinam Akasini w/o Oinam Tomba of Thanga Oinam Leikai, Bishenpur District (stomach pain and injury in physical assault and baton charge by police )
5. Ms. Khwairakpam Thambalmala w/o Kh. Tomba of Thanga Oinam Leikai, Bishenpur District (head and right ear injury in baton charge and hit by tear gas)
6. Ms. Khwairakpam Kiran w/o Kh. Deben of Thanga Oinam, Bishenpur District (shoulder pain and bone fracture in right hand fingers due to baton charge)
7. Ms. Oinam Roma w/o Oinam Rajen of Thana Oinam, Bishenpur District (back injury)
8. Ms. Khwairakpam Amusana w/o Krishananda of Thanga Oinam Leikai, Bishenpur District (shoulder and chest)
9. Ms. Khwairakpam Thoibi w/o Kh. Noren of Thanga Oinam Leikai, Bishenpur District (back pain in baton charge)
10. Ms. Ningthoujam Thasana w/o Ningthojam Dinesh, resident of Thanga Oinam Leikai, Bishenpur District (back injury in Baton charge)
11. Ms. Heisnam Ashangbi, w/o of Heisnam Nongthon, Thanga Heisnam Leikai (left leg fracture after hit by tear gas canister)
IDENTIFICATION OF PERPETRATORS: Manipur Police belonging to the Moirang Police Station, Bishenpur District, Manipur
DATE OF INCIDENT: 19 December 2011
PLACE OF INCIDENT: Thanga Ithing Village Chingjin, Bishenpur District, MANIPUR

EVENT DESCRIPTION: At least ten (10) women belonging to the Meitei people of Manipur in India’s North East campaigning against the controversial Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006, were seriously injured in brutality unleashed by the Manipur police at Thanga Chingjin, Manipur on 19 December 2011. All the injured women were taking part in a protest rally, organized by the All Loktak Lake Fishermen’s Union and the All Manipur Thanga People’s Welfare Association to repeal the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006, under which the Loktak Development Authority and the Manipur Police unleashed widespread arson and destruction of floating huts over Phumdis, a floating vegetation mass, in Manipur since 15 November 2011 despite stiff opposition of affected families.

One of injured women after police assault

The protest rally commenced from Thanga Chingyang Hill till it was stopped at Thanga Chingjin in Bishenpur District by the Manipur Police personnel under the command of the Officer in Charge of Moirang Police Station, Mr. Dhananjoy. The police in an attempt to disperse the protestors resorted to baton charge, physical assault and even firing of around 200 live rounds of ammunitions, including from sophisticated guns in the air, which has caused shock and panic among the community members, already victimized due to displacement from livelihood sources. No women police personnel were involved in the crackdown of the protest which mainly comprised of women and elderly people, which is again a clear cut violation of women’s rights as many of the male police personnel physically assaulted the women protestors.

The injured women were taken to Community Health Centre Moirang. One of the Women, Ms. Oinam Akasini, wife of Oinam Tomba is still in a serious condition and referred to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences on late evening of 19 December 2011. The condition of Ms. Khwairakpam Thambalmala and Heisnam Ashangbi also continues to be serious and were advised for further medical checkups.

More women injured by Manipur police assault

During the protest rally on 29 December at Thanga, the protesters raised several slogans like “Repeal Loktak Lake Protection Act 2006“, “Don’t prohibit fishing and building of huts in Loktak Lake“. The protestors were also protesting the absence of free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities depending on Loktak wetlands in the management and protection measures of the Lake and the numerous restrictions imposed on the communities over the use and dependence on Loktak Lake. A vital aspect of this division is the ban on building huts or houses on phumdis inside the lake, planting athaphum, or engaging in athaphum-fishing in the core area, which will adversely affect over 10,000 people living in phumdi huts, as well as others dependent on Loktak Lake especially under Article 19 and 20 of the Act, which divides the Lake into two zones – a core zone comprising 70.30 sq km, which is a ‘no development zone’, or ‘totally protected zone’, and a buffer zone of other areas of the lake excluding the core zone.

The direct targetting of indigenous women endeavouring to defend their right to life and survival sources is a clear cut violation of the rights of human rights defenders in Manipur also violating the UN Declaration on the rights of Human Rights Defenders and also the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Convention against Torture. The failure to take the consent of the affected communities also constitute a serious forms of discrimination targetting the marginalized communities and also violated the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. The arsoning and destruction of floating huts and livelihood of the indigenous people dwelling in Loktak Lake constitute a serious violation of the “right to life”, “right to adequate housing” as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and also the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Right.

One of the burnt floating huts

The arsoning process and targetting the indigenous peoples depending on the Loktak Wetlands for survival to eviction and displacement is a clear cut violation and undermining of the provisions of the Ramsar Conventions, in particular resolutions VII. 8 of Ramsar Convention’s Conference of contracting parties held in May 1999 at Costa Rica and Resolution VIII. 19 held in Spain in November 2002, which provides guidelines for establishing and strengthening local communities and indigenous peoples participation and to consider the cultural values of wetlands in the management of wetlands.

Background: Nearly one thousand one hundred and forty seven (1147) floating huts have already been burnt in the arsoning and destruction of floating huts by the Loktak Development Authority and the Manipur Police which commenced from 15 November 2011. These floating huts were used by the indigenous Meitei people for fishing and also for refuge for landless people who were earlier displaced by the Ithai Barrage of the Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project, which has inundated nearly 80,000 Hectares of prime agricultural land since its commissioning in 1984.

The fishing gears and nets of the communities, the only survival means to catch fish from the Loktak wetlands were also burned and these has left the community in further dire situation and will impact on the communities to freely carry out daily livelihood activities which they follow since time immemorial. There are about 5,000 family members living in all these floating huts in localities like Khuman Yangbi, Nambul Machin and Karang Sabal within the Loktak Lake. The affected family members including women, children and elderly had been seeking refuge at Thanga Chingyang Community Hall in Bishenpur District, Manipur.

Each household was offered 40,000 Indian Rupees (approx 900 USD) as compensation by the Government before burning down their huts. However, most of the villagers rejected this payment as the amount is too meagre and cannot compensate their livelihood and survival means. And moreover, there is no process to rehabilitate the affected villagers and their right to free, prior and informed consent has not been sought. And in many cases, the police also forced the displaced family members to burn their own huts.

Affected people resist police attempt to stop their protest of Loktak eviction, 19 Dec. 2011

The Government of Manipur, though its Loktak Development Authority has been blaming the indigenous peoples dwelling in Loktak lake for polluting and causing contamination of the Lake. However, the impact of Ithai Barrage of the Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project, commissioned in 1984, which led to huge scale devastation of Loktak wetland wetlands ecosystem, loss of indigenous plant and faunal species, disturbance of the wetlands natural balance and cleansing system leading to pollutions, increasing siltation from the rivers etc has not been considered and completely ignored.

The phumdi and people living on floating huts, ironically, has been highlighted as a tourist attraction by the national and Manipur governments in their official publications and calendars. During the current Sangai Tourism Festival (21-30 November 2011), the Loktak Lake and traditional floating fishing community has been also showcased.

Experts attending the one day discussion on “Contradictions of Ramsar Conventions Standards and Guidelines with Loktak Wetlands Management in Manipur” was organized by the All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen’s Union and All Manipur Thanga People’s Welfare Association at the Conference Hall of Manipur State Central Library, Imphal on 17 December had recommended the repeal of the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006.

The Loktak Lake is long been targeted for corruption and manipulations by the Government of Manipur. As outlined in the Poknapham daily on 20 December 2011, the National Human Rights Commission of India has also directed the Government of Manipur to institute an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the corruption and scandals surrounding the clearing of Phumdi (floating vegetation mass) by a company called K-Pro.

DEMANDS: Urge upon the Government of India to
· Repeal the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006
· The Government of Manipur should provide immediate alternate relief for the affected landless fishermen living on phum huts inside the Loktak Lake for ages and who are currently seeking shelter at Thanga Haoreng Chingyang community hall after arson of their floating huts in November 2011 to ensure their reparation and redress.
· The fishing community living at Thanga, Karang and other peripheral areas of the Loktak Lake should be allowed to build adequate number of floating huts/phums huts inside the lake so as to provide shelter during storm, heavy rains and hot suns and also to promote the cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples of Manipur.
· Provision of land for the landless fisherfolks who are displaced by the recent arsoning under the Loktak Protection Act, 2006
· No part of the Loktak Lake should be declared as fishery
· Formulate Loktak Lake Fisherfolk Rights and welfare act.
· As per resolution VII. 8 of Ramsar Convention’s Conference of contracting parties held in May 1999 at Costa Rica and Resolution VIII. 19 held in Spain in November 2002, which provides guidelines for establishing and strengthening local communities and indigenous peoples participation and to consider the cultural values of wetlands in the management of wetlands, the Government of India and Government of Manipur to ensure that all management, protection measures of Loktak Lake should be with due participation and consent of all communities depending on Loktak Lake for survival.
· Review Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project towards a fair and objective process with the aid of international cooperation and to decommission the Ithai Barrage.
· Urge the Government of India to urgently invite a Ramsar Advisory Mission for Loktak Lake in order to assess the increasing threats to its ecological character and recommend appropriate effective steps to ameliorate them.
· Implement indigenous peoples Right to Free Prior and Informed Consent before introducing any mega development policies and projects in Manipur in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS BY FAX OR EMAIL TO:

1. Dr. Manmohan Singh

The Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi
India-110 101
Telephone: 91-11-23012312
Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857

2. Dr. P. Chidambaram
Home Minister
Griha Mantralaya
Room No. 104, North Block
Central Secretariat, New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2301 5750, 2309 3750, 2309 2763
E-mail: hm@nic.in

3. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi-110001 INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23340016
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

4. 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

One Response

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  1. Thanks to my brother Jitten for exposing this NEW human rights abuse in India’s occupied north-east territories, Jitten himself was arrested and tortured not long ago and thanks in no small part to the Bajan Reporter news site and my alerting high ranking allies in the UN – was he ordered to be released from illegal incarceration. It is very sad to see that his uphill struggle continues for the long oppressed Meitei Tribal Nation.

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