Call for sign-ons: Letter on the Burning of Houses of Indigenous Peoples in Saikhumpai village, Mizoram, India

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    Dear friends,
    We wish to seek your support to a letter of concern we will be sending to the Government of India on the recent burning of the houses of indigenous peoples in Saikhumphai village in Mizoram, India and the non-action from the State Government to protect the indigenous peoples and rehabilitate the victims.

    For those who wish to sign on to this letter, please send your name, organization and location to richard@aippnet.org and kaw@aippnet.org by 28 May 2013.


    21st May, 2013
    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

    Dear Sir,
    It came to our attention that the indigenous village of Sakhumphai Village in Champhai District of Mizoram are living in constant fear of their lives as a result of the state government’s inaction to protect and uphold their rights to remain in their land.
    According to reports, the village was protesting their eviction from their land as a result of the plan to make the Sakhumpai area an Indo-Myanmar Trade Area without their Free Prior and Informed Consent. Accordingly, the Mizoram Government issued an order last year, declaring the Saikhumpai as an illegal settlement and for which residents would be evicted by 31 October 2012.

    In response to this, the Saikhumpai villagers challenged this order with the Guahati High Court under Justice Bhuyan Aizawl’s bench. In a ruling of the Guahati Hight Court on 26 April 2013, it quashed the orders of the State government allowing for villagers to remain in Saikhumphai and directing the Deputy Commissioner of Champai to ensure the return of even those who migrated to the neighboring Vaphai village. It further directed the Deputy Commissioner to pay adequate compensation to those villagers whose house were dismantled earlier and reconstruct their respective houses. It likewise instructed the Deputy Commissioner to verify the needs of the villagers and provide whatever assistance they need.

    However, this ruling apparently instigated the neighboring village of Vaphai to attack and burn down the houses in Saikhumpai village last April 29, 2013. Further to this account, the Vaphai village have apparently accused the villagers in Saikhumpai of being involved in drugs and arms trade of which none are substantiated with evidence.

    Though a number of police personnel including three platoons of armed policemen were deployed, the police could not stop the mob from torching all the houses excluding three church buildings, an Anganwadi centre and a vacant house temporarily occupied by the police.

    As a result of the burning, the villagers of Saikhumpai not only lost their houses but also all their belongings including food and clothes. Some villagers could salvage only some pots and pans, clothing and some household utensils from their homes. They are currently wandering in the surrounding areas of Saikhumphai and are staying in temporary tents. At least five people were injured in a clash with the police who were deployed in the hamlet to enforce a Guwahati High Court order. Until today the government of Mizoram has not taken any steps for the rehabilitation of these victims and non government organizations are being prevented from entering the village to provide assistance to the victims.

    With this, we express our concern on the alleged inaction of the government to provide the needed rehabilitation needs for those affected by the fires and ensure the safety of the villagers of Saikhumpai from further attacks. We further express our concern on the lack of conduct of an investigation on the incident.

    We are concerned that with the continued silence of the government on this issue, the safety of our indigenous brothers and sisters in Saikhumphai village will continually be at risk and that they are under constant threat of attack.

    We therefore support the following specific demands of the residents of Saikhumphai Village in Champhai District of Mizoram to the Government of India and hope that the concerned authorities act on these urgently:

    • Provide the immediate need of shelter, food and medical aid for those affected.
    • Provide adequate rehabilitation and resettlement of the victims and provide enough security for the affected peoples.
    • For the State of Mizoram to conduct an impartial investigation on the incident and hold those accountable responsible including the lack of inaction of State forces to provide the needed protection for the victims
    • For the government of India and the NHRC to conduct an indepth investigation on the root cause of the incident and implement appropriate measures to resolve the conflict
    • Stop all forms of evictions targeting indigenous peoples.
    • Take the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous peoples before taking and administrative processes in Mizoram.

    Cc:
    Home Minister of India
    2, Krishna Menon Marg,
    New Delhi – 110 003
    Tels.(011) 23017957, 23017962 (R), 23710411, 23717474,
    23719205 (O), 09810113777 (M)
    Fax. (011) 23710065 (O), 23017965 (R)
    skshinde@sansad.nic.in

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

    Pu. Vakkom B Purushothaman
    Governor of Mizoram
    Raj Bhavan, Aizawl
    Mizoram 796001
    Phone Number : 0389-2322262/2323200
    Fax No : 0389-2323344

    Pu. Lalthanhawla
    Chief Minister of Mizoram
    MC Donald Hill, Zarkawt, Aizawl
    Phone: 2322150(O); 2232425(R)
    Fax:  2322245

    Pi. L.Tochhong, IAS
    Chief Sececretary, Mizoram
    New Secretariat Complex, Aizawl-796001.
    Ph: 0389-2232244, 2322411
    Fax: 0389-2322745

    Pu. Alok Kumar Verma, IPS
    Director General of Police
    Phone: 0389-2334682
    Fax: 2334310