Solidarity Appeal for the Protection of Lei-Ingkhol Village from the Manipur ‘Capital Complex’
The villagers of Lei-Ingkhol, Imphal, Manipur, India, have been expressing their heartfelt concern over the Manipur State Cabinet decision of 20th April 2005, reaffirmed again in other decisions of 28th April 2005 and 31st May 2005 to construct a ‘Capital Complex’ at Lei-Ingkhol’. The ‘Capital Complex’ constitutes ‘High Court complex, Civil Secretariat Complex, State Assembly Secretariat and quarters’ for MLAs, bureaucrats and contractors.
Lei-Ingkhol village was founded around 1947 by socially stigmatised and ostracised lepers and tuberculosis patients. 1960s onwards they are enlisted in the electoral roll of the Wangkhei Assembly Constituency. Today, besides the presence of lepers, most of residents are the direct descendants of the lepers who founded the village or landless families who have no alternative place to emigrate. The residents have founded a ‘Leprosy Patients’ Welfare Society’ (1976), a ‘Destitute Children Home, and a ‘Community Care Centre’ (1999) that provides medical treatment and shelter to AIDS/ HIV victims. In 1990 the then Deputy Chairman DRDA, Government. of Manipur, under the Social Housing Scheme constructed houses for 39 of the families. Out of the 89 families 41 are Below Poverty Line card holders.
Lei-Ingkhol residents do not oppose infrastructure development of the state but express their anguish against and opposition to the Manipur State Government’s arbitrary inclusion of their village into the ‘Capitol Project’. It is worth reminding here that the state, in the name of development such as reconstruction of market shed, dams and government complexes had destroyed the livelihood of several people over the last few decades.
The master plan of the capital complex is anti-people and quite contrary to the idea of development. Manipur is economically backward and the state has not been paying salary regularly to its employees for the last five years. The state requires more investment in the primary economic sector to free the people from dependence to neighbouring states even for basic consumption items such as foodgrains and vegetables. Therefore, the very idea of destroying public property and other costly infrastructure is objectionable and sounds illogical. One needs to question the intention of destroying costly agricultural infrastructure, P.W.D store house, cold storage, soil testing laboratory, seed godown, trial & multifunction, tissue culture laboratory, magfruit fruit processing factory, mushroom laboratory, model floriculture, fruit preservation factory, T.B. hospital, leprosy hospital, destitute children home, mental hospital and community care centre to construct official buildings, quarters, shopping complex, STD booth, hotels, recreation centres, parks and so on for the MLAs, bureaucrats, contractors and the wealthy few. Such a destructive idea could be promoted by the state only in a society where the ruling class, who came to that position as the puppet of the central government, becomes a social parasite that does not invest for capital accumulation but solely relies on profit accumulated through the appropriation of central funding or grants. The Capital complex construction project is nothing but an ‘underdevelopment project’ that would not benefit the people of Manipur.
The lei-ingkhol residents, learnt through their day today experience as semi-proletariat could understand the nature of the state system that keeps them perpetually backward and psychologically disturbed. They are now openly challenging the class interest of the corrupt contractors, engineers and MLAs who, as usual, carry out this cruel some plan to appropriate a big share out of the 300 crore rupees sanctioned by the Central Government for the purpose of destroying pre-existing primary infrastructures, reconstructing them newly in some other places and constructing a Capital Complex as well. They resolved not to surrender their land, interpersonal relationship and sources of livelihood for the benefit of contractor cum legislature operating in the state.
The Lei-Ingkhol residents launched a sit in protest against the cabinet decision from the evening of 19th April 2005 onwards. On 21st April they submitted a memorandum and sought the intervention of His Excellency the Governor of Manipur. On 26th April they submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Manipur to revoke the cabinet decision. On 28th April the Justice of the Guwahati High Court, B.K. Sharma visited the site to give a final approval of the construction of High Court Complex. After failed attempts to get an appointment to discuss the matter with the Chief Minister, they held a demonstration in front of the Chief Minister’s bungalow. On 4th May they staged a protest rally and half blocked National Highway No 39. On 5th May they submitted memorandums to the President of India, Prime Minister of India and Ministry of Forest and Environment to intervene in the situation. The same day they flagged off a cycle rally cum signature campaign, which went on for the next few days. On 6th June the call for a blockade of the National Highway was given. The villagers had to confront the state force which was heavily deployed to suppress the agitation on the National Highway. They fought a pitched battle with the state commandoes who lobbed tear gas cells, blasted mock bombs, fired several rounds of rubber bullets and charged them with lathis,. Many got injured. Eight women were hospitalised, one of them had to have 24 stitches on the face. Three men were beaten up seriously. Eight women lepers, three men and two school going children, one of them a girl, were arrested and detained at the lock-up. They have been on a relay hunger strike from 7th June onwards. Till to day, i.e. 2nd August 2005, both the state and central governments had not thought about any amicable solution. Government remains silent over the issue, thus, keeping the residents in a state of psychological disturbance. Many of them have been abstaining from work in order to keep vigil of our village from state encroachment.
I, in favour of the Lei-Ingkhol residents, submit my humble appeal to all progressive organisations, volunteer groups, student bodies and like minded individuals in India and beyond to express solidarity and support the protest and defeat the state’s infringement upon people’s legitimate rights for livelihood and sources of livelihood;
1. Save the Lei-Ingkhol residents, their homes, livelihood, social security, emotional ties, religious belief and religio-cultural practices, interpersonal relationship and honour from displacement, marginalisation, destruction and humiliation as a result of the inclusion of their village within the ambit of the resolved Capital Project of the Manipur State Government (MSG).
2. The residents of Lei-Ingkhol must be allowed to settle peacefully and enjoy their legitimate rights in this village.
3. The Capital Complex must be relocated to other sites, preferably to peripheral areas where the state has the least interest to take up any infrastructural development, acceptable to all for the benefit of the people of Manipur cutting across geographical and community boundaries.
4. The MSG must fully, explain to the Manipur public the reasons for violating Environment Impact Assessment/ Environment Management Plan and Public Hearing norms before the initiation of the Capitol Project Construction.
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