Manipur: Press Release on Forced Displacement of Residents of Floating Islands

January 17, 2013

T-44, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Ph. : 9312654851.

KYS unequivocally condemns the forced displacement of the residents of the floating islands (Phumdis) in Loktak Lake (Bishnupur district, Manipur) between 15 November and 22 November 2011 and extends its solidarity to All Loktak Lake Areas Fisherman’s Union and All Manipur Thanga People’s Welfare Association which are at the moment camping at Delhi demanding the intervention of the Central government in this issue. Instead of addressing their grievances the government is refusing to even start a dialogue with them.

During the said incident the residents’ huts were burned leading to their loosing all their belongings, including essential items such as fishing equipment, household and other valuables. The Loktak Lake (‘Protection) Act of 2006, which prohibits settling on Phumdis and fishing in the core area of the lake, is the latest instance of the blatant attack that the state has launched upon the right to livelihood of the toiling masses. The Indian state continues the policy of appropriating public resources and passing it over to private control. In this situation the toiling masses involved in traditional occupations have become particularly vulnerable, but the state instead of addressing their needs and ensuring adequate employment for them, is trying to suppress their resistance through the use of brute force. The affected have nowhere to go and they have been offered a paltry sum of Rs. Forty thousand. In this desperate situation it is hardly surprising that they have tried to put up resistance.

The state has made the hackneyed, excuse of counter-insurgency and environmental crisis management but it’s pro-capital and anti working class character now stands exposed. It is significant that the deterioration of the ecosystem of the Loktak lake has mostly been the result not of human settlement, but of the hydrological changes introduced by the Ithai Dam commissioned in 1983. The lake has also been reported to be polluted by the urban waste coming from the rivers that pass through Manipur’ cities. While industrialization is necessary, we cannot allow it to happen at the cost of the toiling masses and for the private profits of a handful of capitalists who control the state. Such displacements are happening in every part of the country but in areas like the “North-East” and Kashmir their brunt has been particularly acute due to the heavy presence of the armed forces and draconian laws like the AFSPA which allow the state to suppress every dissenting voice with impunity.

As a result of this brutal assault a ‘million mutinies’ have cropped in various parts of India, but they remain local and isolated. It is the need of the hour for them to come together and unite with the broad masses of the urban proletariat and other democratic forces which too are faced with a bleak future and an ever deteriorating standard of living. KYS calls upon all revolutionary and democratic forces of the country to unite with the understanding that our collective interest lies in defending each others’ struggle. At this critical juncture we must start a concerted struggle to force the Indian state to initiate discussions with the displaced people’s representatives with the objective of meeting their demands.

Chinglen Khumukcham (on behalf of KYS)