Indigenous Peoples right to self-determination ignored in Manipur

Jiten Yumnam is a journalist, staunch environmental and human rights defender in the state of Manipur, in India.  Currently, the secretary for the Centre for Research and Advocacy – Manipur (CRA-Manipur). Jiten is being subjected to harassment and intimidation by local state forces in Manipur, India. He has been involved in protesting against the exploitation of natural resources and human right violations in the Manipuri state and working towards promoting sustainable development in the region. He has talked in brief about the situation of Indigenous Peoples in Manipur, North-East, India. 

Manipur, India’s Northeastern region, has been recognized as an independent country as early as 550 B.C and has never been part of British India. Manipur’s political independence had been internationally reaffirmed. The British did not annex Manipur after her defeat in the Anglo-Manipur War, 1891. Manipur regained her sovereign status on August 14, 1947 only to be annexed by India on October 15, 1949. Manipur also has become one of the most militarized areas of the world. 

The government of India refuses to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 (UNDRIP), and also refuses to recognize the very term “indigenous peoples” as it regards all peoples in India as Indigenous. The implication is the non-recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination on her soil.

The development processes, incompatible to the traditional values and wishes, aspirations of indigenous communities are introduced in Manipur without recognition of indigenous peoples Self Determination over their land and resources. Manipur has increasingly been subjected to expropriation of its land and natural resources in India’s pursuance of economic development.

The mega dams has been one of the major concerns in Manipur. The Manipur Hydroelectric Power Policy, 2012, has been formed to build mega dams across almost every tangible rivers of Manipur. The policy has no provision to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and to take their free, prior and informed consent. Mapithel dam on the Thoubal River and the Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project have led to widespread submergence of agriculture land, forest, and homestead land. These dams were constructed without taking the free prior and informed consent of the affected villagers. 

Similarly, without the consent of all indigenous peoples of Manipur, the Government of India, through its Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, granted license to Jubilant Oil and Gas Private Limited (JOGPL) a company based in Netherlands, for exploration and drilling works in two oil blocks in Manipur that are located in the Jiribam (Imphal East), Tamenglong, and Churachandpur districts. The government of India and Jubilant Energy both failed to recognize that oil and all resources in Manipur belongs to the indigenous peoples of Manipur and that they have exclusive rights to define and decide how to use, control, and manage their resources.

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