On 24 September 2021, the Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre (IRAC) has submitted a representation to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) seeking an immediate halt to the forced eviction of Indigenous Communities affected by the Imphal Town Ring Road project in Manipur. The project is financed by the Asian Development Bank. Earlier, a complaint before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has also been filed over this issue.
On 27 August 2021, the Sub Divisional Officer, Lamphel, Imphal West District, Manipur issued an eviction order under the Manipur Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1976 for the purpose of establishing a project corridor of the Imphal Town Ring Road Project to evict around 20 households of Tharon Village in Imphal West District of Manipur. The eviction order of 27 August 2021, which was based on a prior notification of the Deputy Commissioner, Imphal West District, dated 28th July 2021, stated that the villagers of Tharon village are illegally encroaching on the Langol Reserve Forest Areas. The proposed eviction plan will directly affect around 20 households of Tharon Village belonging to the Kabui / Rongmei Tribe, while another 50 households will be affected indirectly due to the road cutting.
In the eviction order, the Tharon villagers are falsely classified as encroachers in Langol Hills. The villagers of Tharon have been settling in the Langol Hills and Forest areas for several generations even before the enactment of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 of the Government of India and before the declaration of Langol Reserve Forest by the Forest Department, Manipur. The notice for eviction of Tharon villagers and land demarcation is despite the fact that the detailed project document, the rehabilitation and resettlement plan, Indigenous Peoples Plan, Social and Environment Impact Assessment were not prepared.
The impending forced eviction of the indigenous peoples will violate the Indian laws including the Right to Fair. Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, in particular section 41 relating to “Special provisions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes” which provides for, among others, preparation of “Development Plan” for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (indigenous peoples); the Forest Rights Act, 2006, which makes it mandatory to seek the consent of the traditional village institutions of the tribal Tharon Villagers for any diversion of their village land; and violation of Article 21 of Indian Constitution which safeguards the right to life.
IRAC has appealed the ADB and the PMO to immediately intervene to stop the forced eviction of indigenous peoples and to direct the state government of Manipur (Burrower/client) to immediately withdraw the Eviction Order sissued by the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO), Lamphel, Imphal West, dated 27th August 2021 and the Deputy Commissioner, Imphal West dated 28th July 2021, and appealed to ADB to completely withhold the funding till satisfactory withdrawal of the eviction orders/notices and to ensure that the state government of Manipur adhere to the Asian Development Bank’s Safeguard Policy Statement of June 2009 with regard to the indigenous peoples, including the undertaking of “meaningful consultation with affected Indigenous Peoples to ensure their informed participation in designing, implementing, and monitoring measures to avoid adverse impacts on them or, when avoidance is not possible, to minimize, mitigate, and compensate for such effects; and tailoring project benefits that accrue to them in a culturally appropriate manner.