Police foil protest rally by Maphou Dam affected villagers

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IMPHAL July 10: A combined police team this morning prevented scores of villagers from Lamlai Khunou and Chadong of Phungyar sub division from staging a protest march at Ramrei village to demand appropriate rehabilitation policies for Maphou Dam affected villagers.

The protestors had come out in droves in the morning to participate in the rally and sit-in-protest which was being organized by the Mapithel Dam Affected Villages Organization (MDAVO) with the aim of highlighting the woes of the affected villagers to the state government. However, a fully equipped police mob control team led by Ukhrul SDPO and OC, Lamlai police station that was stationed beforehand at the village intercepted them at Ramrei and stopped them from going ahead with their agitation.

Initially, the police tried to persuade the protestors to reconsider their decision to stage the rally by themselves. Afterward, a meeting was held at Ramrei village between police officers and leaders of civil organizations in the presence SDO of Phungyar TS Shimrayngam. The SDO contended that he came on behalf of the district administration to listen to their grievances and further urged the activists to instead submit a memorandum on the same to the concerned DC for redressal. He assured them that all standing orders can be rectified if they are found to be anti-people and requested them to abandon their plans for the protest rally and sit-in-protest in general interest.

Acknowledging the appeal of the SDO and the police, the protestors agreed to call off the rally and settled for a token protest cum public meeting at Lamlai Khullen School. However, the police personnel forced the participants to discard their placards displaying slogans condemning the government.

Vice-chairman of MDAVO, Themson Jajo while addressing the gathering said that the public has the right to hold democratic forms of protest to pursue their rightful demands. He said that the rehabilitation policies for dam affected villagers is not confined to Manipur but is followed all over the world. The government has been turning a blind eye to the woes of the villagers of the Mapithel area since 2003, but the appeal to review the rehabilitation policy for dam affected villagers was finally heard and an Expert Review Committee (ERC) was set up in 2008 and the review process has been going on since, he added.

However, he alleged, fields, forests, graveyards and irrigation canals belonging to the public has been left out from the scrutiny conducted by the ERC.

The mooted point was that on June 13 last, the IFCD commissioner, who is also the chairman of the ERC, had passed an official notification that the rehabilitation process has been completed in all affected villages except for Chadong and Lamlai Khunou villages where the process is also nearing completion.

The dam activists and families of the six affected villages has charged that the notice was baseless, claiming that the policies have not been tendered effectively as of now by the government.

A resentful Angam of Chadong village told IFP, “ Our fields and forests which are our means of livelihood will be gone along with our ancestral homes. Our appeal to the government is to provide us with the means for survival and land for resettlement. Is it not within our democratic rights to do so?”, he asked.

“The rally was to be conducted in our villages, in our community. What harm would we beset upon ourselves, we are not going to torch our own houses, the actions of the police today borders on harassment and gross injustice?” he maintained.

It may be mentioned that the MDAVO had submitted a writ petition to the Gauhati High Court (Imphal Bench) on June 27 seeking the court’s directive to stop the construction of the Maphou Dam on grounds of violation of the rules and regulations of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy, 1998 where it is mentioned that the rehabilitation plan should be completed one year ahead of completion of the project. The Maphou Dam is set for inauguration in March, 2012.

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