India: Villagers’ houses torched Saikhumphai Village in Mizoram

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    On 29th May 2013, the whole village of Saikhumphai in Champhai District of Mizoram has been burnt down by the villagers of Vaphai, who were the neighbouring village.

    “The people between the ages of 15 and 60 came to Saikhumphai in the morning and participated in the arson. Some villagers came to our village from the Tiau river side and set fire to our houses,” said a local. The locals said the arsonists used kerosene in bottles to set fire to the houses. The bottles were thrown at the houses in Saikhumphai. All the houses were reduced to ashes, said a local. Some villagers could salvage only some pots and pans, clothing and some household utensils from their homes. They are wandering in the surrounding areas of Saikhumphai and are staying in temporary tents.
    “The villagers are crying and are staying on the road side in Saikhumphai,” said a local from Saikhumphai. Around five people were injured in a clash with the police who were deployed in the hamlet to enforce a Guwahati High Court order. 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.
    There were no villagers of Saikhumphai inside the hamlet when angry people from Vaphai village destroyed it, reports said. The incident took place after Justice Ujjal Bhuyan of Aizawl bench of Gauhati High Court delivered a judgement on 26th May 2013 quashing the orders of the State Local Administration department instructing all the inhabitants of Saikhumphai to migrate to Vaphai village. Mizoram Government issued an order last year, declaring Saikhumkhai as illegal settlement and eviction of all the residents on or before October 31 last year. The villagers challenged the order of the State Government in Gauhati High Court’s Aizawl bench and the court quashed the government’s eviction order and directed the Deputy Commissioner of Champhai to ensure the return of even those who had shifted to Vaphai. The court allowed the 41 evicted families to return to Saikhumphai within a month.
    The court also directed the Champhai district DC to pay adequate compensation to those villagers whose house were dismantled earlier and reconstruct their respective houses. Accordingly, the state government has been directed to provide necessary assistance to these families. In this connection, Deputy Commissioner Champhai is instructed to verify their needs and provide whatever assistance they need. The court also fined the Local Administration Department a sum of Rs. 20,000. Reports said that Myanmarese nationals who had earlier settled in the hamlet were already deported but Vaphai village leaders could not accept the fact that ‘illegal’ settlement should spring up in a land under their jurisdiction.
    They not only lost their house but also all their belongings including food and clothes, till today the government of Mizoram has not taken any steps for the rehabilitation of these victims. While in the meantime, Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA) has issued a press release on 4th May 2013 stating that all Branch of YMA should prevent those who try to rehabilitates and collect donation for them. The incident of a breach of administration of justice and accusing the High Court of burning the village was baseless and insensible. The Government has not taken any action, till today even when the incident took place, police personnel were there, no one has been arrested in connection with the torching of the village, which was a clear indication of the government’s apathy.  The government insist of taking any action, till today even when the incident took place police personnel were there, no one has been arrested in connection with the torching of the village, as well as does not sent any rehabilitation.

    Specific demands of the residents of Saikhumphai Village in Champhai District of Mizoram, India
    –    Provide the immediate need of shelter, food and medical aid.
    –    Direct the State government of Mizoram to initiate appropriate action against those individuals or organisations that were responsible for burning down the whole village under relevant provisions of Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code;
    –    Direct the state government to make proper rehabilitation programme for the victims
    –    Take any other measures that the NHRC deems fit for protection of these victims;
    –    Stop all forms of evictions targeting indigenous peoples.
    –    Provide adequate rehabilitation and resettlement of the victims and provide enough security for the peoples.
    –    Take the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous peoples before taking and administrative processes in Mizoram.
    –    Direct the state government to prevent anyone taking law into their own hands, but also to uphold and execute the verdict of any judicial establishment.

    Source: Zoindigenous