Involuntary Displacement and Indigenous People's Rights in Manipur

Jajo Themson *

Forced eviction or involuntary social displacement is one of the most common and biggest social issues in India. Millions of Jhuggies, adivasis, tribal and other indigenous populace in the country are the most victimized groups. In common, social displacements are caused by natural disasters like cyclone, earthquake, flood, draught, land slide etc in one aspect which have more frequent occurrences today as an impact of climate change.

On the other hand, there are man-made disasters like war situations, human right abuses etc. causing involuntary social displacement in one vein and mega developmental projects such as industries, mining, dams, wild life sanctuaries, forest conservation, road & railway projects, urbanisation etc. on the other aspect. The same is coined as Development Induced Displacement (DID).

It is recorded that about 21.3 Million people have been displaced in India in the last decade. Among them, 39% were due to natural disasters whereas, 61% are because of human creation. In Manipur as per study results, about 2028 houses have been demolished under forced eviction and displaced about 10,301 numbers of people due to Development Induced Displacement (DID) in the last decade till date.

Still in an unexpected way, about 18,126 families with about 59,085 people are under threat of force displacement in the state on the onslaught of the so called development programs like Dam building, forest conservation, Loktak Lake clearance, Public premises protection, town urbanisation, airport expansion, roadway and railway construction, Wetland protection etc.

The current article discusses about the record on nature and extent of such DID in the state and violations of national laws itself, international human rights standard along with quantum of people who are continue to be under threat of eviction under such developmental programs and highlights the laws that permit forced evictions in the state.

Under Sub-Section (1) of section 4 and section 5 (2) of the Manipur Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised occupants) Act, 1978, 200 families with about 600 people at Super Market, Sanakeithel Imphal in 2020 and 15 families with about 90 persons at Lamphel Yaippha leikai in 2011 were displaced under forced eviction drive.

In another incident, under section 19 and 20 of the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, 2006, 813 floating huts with about 5000 people of Loktak Lake have been evicted so far. Still 200 families with about 850 people are under threat of eviction.

Under Section 26 (1A) of Indian Forest Act, 1927 and Section 81 of the Manipur Forest Rules, 1971, 170 families with 850 people were displaced at Kshtri Bengoon Awang Leikai, Imphal East, Waithou Sangomsang, Thoubal, 14 houses at Langol foothill areas, Imphal West and 3 houses at Macheng, Mantripukhri, Imphal West. Still 1567 households with about 6459 persons are living under threat of eviction in the pretext of forest conservation.

Still in another incident, 116 families with about 700 people had been displaced in 2012 due to Imphal Airport expansion under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Moreover, under the provisions of Chapter III, section 1-17 of the Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reforms Act, 1960 and National Wet Lands Rules, 2017 there are threat of eviction to 40 houses with 160 people at Kharungpat and 15000 families with 45,000 people at Pumlen Pat, Loktak. Grossly, 15,040 families with 45,160 persons in Kakching District are under threat of forced eviction.

Further, so far in the history, about 1310 families with about 7860 persons have been displaced involuntarily due to dam projects in the state. Still, many thousands of families and people are under threat of displacement because of the proposed mega dam projects in Manipur such as 66 MW Loktak Downstream hydroelectric project at Taoshang village, 70 MW Nungleiband dam, 60 MW Irang dam,

1500 MW Tipaimukh hydroelectric project, 190 MW Pabram dam, 67 MW Khongnem Chakha dam in Senapati and 51 MW Tuivai dam project in Churachandpur district.

There are several violations of Indian laws in forced eviction as article 19 of the Indian constitution provides freedom to move freely and reside anywhere throughout the territory of the country and article 21 also provides right to life, livelihood and personal liberty. In one of such cases, the High Court of Delhi in its judgment 2010 in the case of Sudama Singh and others VS Govt. of Delhi and Others, recognised the violation of human rights in the act of forced eviction.

The order says, "The denial of the benefit of rehabilitation to the petitioners violates their right to shelter guaranteed under article 21 of the Indian constitution" As such, removal of their jhuggies without ensuring their relocation would amount to gross violation of their fundamental rights.

Further, whatever the reasons may be, force action of eviction and involuntary social displacement is a violation of the United Nations Human Rights Commission Resolution 1993/77 and 2004/28. As per the abovementioned resolutions, whether or not deem legal under prevailing system of law, forced eviction violate a range of internationally recognised human rights such as human right to adequate housing, right to security of the person and of the home, right to health, right to food, right to water, right to work & livelihood, right to education, right to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, right to freedom of movement, right to information and right to participation and self expression.

Moreover, article 10,11,19, 21 and 29 of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), 2007 clearly provides Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the indigenous people whenever proposal for social displacement are to take place. Moreover, there is a strong provision in the article 3 of the UNDRIP that indigenous people have right to Self Determination. As such, forced eviction or involuntary displacement in most of the situation involves serious violations of indigenous peoples, right.

Besides this, there are serious contradictions between forced eviction and goal 10 of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) aimed to reduce inequalities and point 16 which targets peace and justice envisaged achieving. Therefore, any sort of involuntary displacement need to be ended by nations.

Additionally, like in the case histories of India, most of the forced evictions done in the state were devoid of adequate compensation, rehabilitation and systematic resettlement. One bitter experience of severe violation to the displaced people is that they are normally left out without further concern socially and politically. Chadong village stands as a clear picture of such human right violations due to the Mapithel dam project.

The long cherished social unity and peaceful life of the local people of Chadong village have been disintegrated in to four localities today. Besides that, those people relocated at different spots are reeled under shortage of drinking water, medical facilities and other civic amenities. Another glaring example of such kind in Manipur is recorded in Khuga dam in Churachandpur district where compensations were not properly provided and over 3000 villagers were displaced by forced dam water aggression without any concern of fair relocation assured.

National or state governments need to realise the quantum of violations of rights of the people inciting from forced eviction or involuntary social displacement in the development interventions that victimized its own citizens in the last century. Govts. need to take extra-precautionary measures in development framework not to be reason for suffering of its citizens in the name of development.

Moreover, they should realise involuntary displacement embeds violation of series of Indian law itself and internationally recognised human right standards. Further, it is compelling that state and national Govt. use mind and wisdom in taking up developmental projects which meant for the welfare and benefit of the native people of its own nation.

As such, any infrastructural development programs should be properly envisioned that rights of the indigenous people over their ancestral land, homes and backbone of their sustenance shall not be undermined. Let there be no eradication of existence rights of the indigenous people because only through their land, settlement and resources they could mingle with the mainstream of the world. It is not the kind of development that uproot from their settlement and livelihood sources but measures to enhance or improve their living standard is called for.

In conclusion, it is suggested there is necessity of review and repealing of those human - unfriendly laws. Instead, there is need of upholding the inherent rights of the indigenous populace including their life and liberty.

State or national parliament required to establish laws that recognise indigenous peoples rights and national legal framework be based on the basic principle enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, implement the provisions of Article 19 and 21 of the Indian constitution in letter and spirit and Article 3, 10, 11, 19, 23 and 29 of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of the Indigenous People (UNDRIP), 2007 that empowered the indigenous peoples the right to self determination and Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). National governments are inevitably bound to stop any forms of forced eviction or involuntary displacement.

Finally, it is compelling that all those laws or acts that confront human being itself be repealed once for all in the interest of equality, justice and humanity towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

* Jajo Themson wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at thmsontezonge(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 26 2022.

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