The World’s Indigenous Peoples day was organized jointly by Citizens Action for Social Development, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Awang Sekmai New Market Development Association at Awang Sekmai, Manipur on August 9 with the theme “In Defense of Our Land, Forest, Water, Our Rights and Future”.
Secretary Jiten Yumnam of Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur gave the Key Note address of the celebration while Writer Yaiskul, Convenor Phulindro Konsam of Committee on Human Rights, Advisor Thanmi Kashung Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organization (MDAVO), Jt. Secretary Chaoba All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen’s Union,Sorokhaibam Sanjoy of All Manipur United Clubs Organization deliberated as resource persons.
Jiten Yumnam in his key note, stressed on need of a strong message of indigenous peoples of Manipur in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September 2014. The increasing development onslaught, such as proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam over Barak River, the Mapithel dam over Thoubal River etc and oil exploration plan in Manipur threatened indigenous peoples’ survival. He also stressed on the need of a self determined development of Manipur and to end militarization process in Manipur. Further, to repeal all draconian laws, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 which violates non derogable rights in Manipur.
Jt Secretary Chaoba of All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen Union explained how Ithai Barrage of the 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project submerged more than 80,000 acres of agriculture land and conscripted indigenous fishing communities’ rights in Loktak Lake. The Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006 led to forced eviction of fishing communities and arsoning of floating huts. Many indigenous fish and edible plant species are lost after Ithai barrage. He urged to decommission Ithai Barrage of Loktak project.
Advisor Thanmi Kashung Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organization shared how the Mapithel dam will submerge several villages, prime agriculture land, their forest land and will threaten survival of communities. He called for review of Mapithel dam construction and to conduct a holistic impact assessment and further called for resumption of the Expert Review committee formed in 2008.
Chairman Phulindro Konsam of Committee on Human Rights spoke on the alarming human rights situations due to the ongoing efforts to subdue the right to self determination of Manipur. The influx of non indigenous population in Manipur with state patronage threatened survival of indigenous peoples of Manipur. Development injustice undermined food sovereignty and foster inequality in Manipur. Development should be centred on peoples’ rights and their wishes. He called for repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
Executive member Yaiskul of Patriotic Writer Forum, explained how indigenous cultures and traditions are fast losing out due to changing pattern of land ownership and development aggression on peoples land and resources. The removal of boulder and sand from Sekmai River and other rivers by rich people with state patronage further devastates ecosystem. There are folklores on our forest of Manipur and even rituals before cutting down trees but today, such practices are disrespected.
S Sanjoy of AMUCO spoke on the human rights violations perpetrated under the militarization process in Manipur under emergency laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and how indigenous youths are subjected to extensive fake encounter killings. The World Indigenous Peoples Day celebration has also affirmed that the indigenous peoples right to self determination over our land, water, forest and all natural resources of Manipur as inherent for our physical and spiritual survival, rights and future.