Human rights infractions in Mapithel Dam

Jajo Themson *

Chadong Village now turn into lake  after commissioning of Mapithel Dam :: 25 June 2015
Chadong Village now turn into lake after commissioning of Mapithel Dam on 25 June 2015 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam


The word Human Rights is depicted in the first sentence of the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948 which is a milestone in the history of human rights movement. The fundamental principle of the declaration is "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". It is inherent rights to all human beings to be equal without any discrimination on ground of nationality, place of residence, colour, religion, language or any other status.

The International Human Rights law lays down obligations of Govt to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individual or groups. Recognition of inherent human dignity and inalienable rights of the human family, to undo the barbarous actions against humankind, to protect rights of human being under laws, to promote friendly relationship between nations, to cordon social discrimination in order to promote better standard of life in larger freedom etc were the main principles sketched in the UDHR.

Even though India is an integral member in the United Nations Human Rights Council, she has infirmities with several unresolved human rights issues and mushrooming up of multiple controversies day by day. Series of contraventions of human rights are recorded through different incidents. Discrimination at varied layers, use of military might as the best machinery, denial of right to life of indigenous communities on development interventions etc.

One of the most serious aspects of violations of human rights perpetuated in our context is mega developmental and infrastructural projects. History reveals those violations in undertaking mega projects that induced permanent involuntary social displacement, inhuman treatment under heavy militarization, forced actions meted against those who sacrificed land & resources, failure of sympathetic concern to the fragile and vulnerability of the project affected communities especially, the indigenous people, absence of equitable sharing of benefits, denial of reasonable living standard, suppression of customary rights or laws etc are remarkable.

When one looks into the situation of human rights in Manipur, it seems there is distant relevancy observing the machinery of the Human Rights Commission of the state in a complete lifeless statutory body. Human rights violation under the notorious AFSPA, 1958, Lamphel eviction, Sendra forced eviction, social uproot in Khuga dam project, unwarranted establishment of numerous military camps, land grabbing etc are some of the worth mentioning instances of human rights contraventions in the state of Manipur.

Among them, violation of human rights perpetuated in development interventions is noteworthy which needs serious concern. Here, I would lay emphasis of this article particularly in the context of Mapithel dam as a developmental project which is marred with serious human rights violations.

Infractions of human rights in this project can be viewed in terms of non-conforming to international standard, forced construction, used of military power, procedural flaws & violation of laws, force social displacement, infringement of affected indigenous peoples rights over their land, river, forest and resources and current force dam commissioning plan. Details of such violation history can be analyzed as under stepping back to 1980s when this dam was incepted.

Infractions of Human Rights in Mapithel project: The construction of Mapithel dam was started in 1980s without Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affected communities. This undermined the Article 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People that articulated the FPIC as mandatory in any development undertakings.

Violent incidents that took place in 1982 clearly indicated stiff opposition of the affected people due to infringement of their customary rights of land & resource ownership. It is pertinent that the affected villagers were not given space and their aspirations heard which cordoned the conditions enshrined in the articles 44 of the ILO Convention 169 which stipulated maintaining minimum standard of rights of indigenous peoples, also guarantees indigenous peoples right to participate in the decision making and UN Declaration of Rights on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), 2007 that guaranteed Right to free & self determination and full participation.

Non-entitlement of benefits: Another flagrant feature of unfair and injustice in the Mapithel dam project is benefits of the project such as drinking water, electric power and irrigation etc none of which is entitled to the affected communities who sacrificed their invaluable land, river, forest and resources.

Further, the Mapithel dam project is associated with injustice where livelihood losers are left with nothing in return while dimensional damages have been caused beyond repair. Article 7 of the Convention 169 of International Labour Organization (ILO) provides recognition of rights of indigenous peoples, article 20-23 guaranteed to prioritize their own development needs, equal & fair employment opportunities, article 25 & 27 provide right to proper health care and education.

Lack of proper impacts assessment: Yet another aspect of human rights infractions in Mapithel dam is absence of holistic impacts assessment. Failure of such assessment has led to enormous live hardship to the affected people due to loss of land, river, forest, survival source, socio-economic, normal safe and peaceful community life. It violates the article 28 of the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous people, that state Govt as project developer should fully take into account an endeavour to make effective standard on right to redress, restitution or just, fair and equitable compensations for lands and resources taken, occupied or used without consent of the indigenous people.

Article 32 of the declaration inculcated for appropriate measures that shall be taken to mitigate the adverse environment, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impacts of development projects. Absence of such detail impacts assessment, resulted to an unwanted environment where Social turmoil, confusion, mutual distrust become rampant. Mass migration and scattering are caused and some villages have been segregated into different segments willingly or unwillingly losing their peaceful original social life.

Heavy militarization in an around the dam site took place since 1982. At least 3/4 military camps were deployed either for protection or to cordon the social demand movement of the people living in the dam periphery. As per records, it is well evident that the Security Forces (State/Indian Army) were used as machinery to foil all genuine and democratic protest movements of the affected villagers.

There were incidents of inter & intra villages confrontation even to the extent of violent conflict in the Mapithel affecting area some of which were backed up by the security forces to some sections by inciting provocation. According to fact file, 2 violent incidents occurred in 1982,31 from May 1990- March 2004, 2 in 2011, 4 in 2012, 3 in 2013 were occurred: Foiling of peaceful public meetings, house ransacking, house arrest of some environmentalist, confrontation during public protest etc were very common both inside and outside Mapithel area. All together about 42 violent incidents were recorded till date.

Cases of such actions of the security forces contravenes the principle of the UN Declaration of Human Rights which stipulated an axiomatic principle up on states to ensure the indigenous peoples demands for respect of their rights and legitimate acts of social protest in defend of those rights.

Breach of contract: Based on the fact file, State Govt failed to fulfil the conditions agreed upon in The Memorandum of Agreed Terms and Conditions (MoATC) 1993 which was signed between the land owners and Govt of Manipur. Against the agreed terms, payment of land compensation to the land owners to be done on two instalments ie 1993-1994 & 1994-1995, the same was started in 1996 and the two time instalment was extended up to 8 instalments.

Dysenteric manner of land compensation payment literally killed the power of the affected land owners to arrange alternative land for further survival. They were left in a suicidal condition. Due interest payment to be made @12% p a for non-fulfilment of the deed, is yet to fulfil and still some land owners refused to receive the final land compensation since 1998.

Absences of right safeguard policy: Mapithel dam is still marred with lack of right safety policy for the land owners that tramples the Article 11 of 107 UN Convention which clearly articulated; the right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of the populations. The need to secure indigenous peoples rights of ownership in traditional lands and the requirement that they not be removed from their territories without their consent.

Article 12(2) of 11.O Convention 107 provides: "When in such cases of removal of these populations is necessary as an exceptional measures, they shall be provided with lands of equal quality at least equal to that of the lands previously occupied by them, suitable to provide for their present needs and future development" Moreover, return of land to the original owner after the life of the project should be ensured.

Forced social displacement: Another form of violation of human rights is forced social displacement. Like mentioned earlier, the villagers of Mapithel dam scattered due to compulsive force of the unwarranted dam water rising in 2015. Coercive action of the project developers on forced displacement contravenes the rights articulated in the Article 10 of the UN Declaration of Rights on Indigenous People which reads; "Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories.

Further, no relocation shall take place without the FPIC and after agreement on just and fair compensation and where possible, with the option of return". It is the responsibility of the project developers to properly address the Right to Life, right of women and children, right against forced displacement and indigenous people's rights to preservation of their culture etc.

Absence of proper R&R Plan: On numerous occasions it was raised by the affected people of Mapithel dam requested to frame up a concrete state RR plan which is still failed till date. The arrangement of 1998 RR planning respect of Mapithel dam, revised RR plan of 2011 were arbitrary and under sans transparency and accountability.

The same is construed as denial of adequate living of the affected communities as per the intervention of the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on 26th March 2015 that urged upon the Govt of Manipur to furnish the measures taken to ensure the enjoyment of the right to an adequate standard of living, including housing and food, and rights of indigenous peoples, in particular, for those individuals and communities facing involuntary resettlement as part of the construction of the dam and submergence of the villages.

Sideline of downstream area: As was clearly mentioned in the recommendations of the UNSR, James Anaya, 2010 the RR plan, 1998 of Mapithel dam excluded the downstream people which show the said RR plan is associated with infirmities of lack of accountability and transparency.

It is a serious human rights violation that neither R&R plan & detail impacts assessment nor precautionary measures being taken up where in fact, the villagers in the downstream portions have come to face untold fear psychosis of possible dam break, severe impacts of livelihood, shortage of safe drinking water and health and sanitary problems due to the Mapithel dam construction.


Taking the whole situations of perpetuated human rights violation in the Mapithel dam, it is envisaged that there is defective part in the governance in the state of Manipur which calls for public attention. The official announcement of state Govt the 11th target plan for force commissioning the Mapithel dam either in the last part of October or November 2017 might be the latest step of human rights contravention in this project which is aggrandizing the multiple chapters of unresolved violations.

Therefore, instead of commissioning the Mapithel dam, it is commendable that state Govt takes up stringent steps to rectify the numerous human rights violations perpetuated upon the affected communities in the last three decades. Besides this, it is also urged to stop any form of social displacement, end militarization and undemocratic development processes in state of Manipur with a view to upholding indigenous people's right to life etc.

* Jajo Themson wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on November 08, 2015.

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