The Mapithel Dam-affected locals are demanding forest rights, fishing rights and economic livelihood package, among others, from the Manipur government

Imphal: Four persons were injured after police resorted to tear gas firing to disperse the crowds at Shikiphung junction during the 48-hour total shutdown imposed along the Imphal-Ukhrul stretch on National Highway 150 by supporters of the Mapithel Dam-Affected Headmen Chiefs and Elders Organisation (MDAHCEO) on Monday.

A vehicle belonging to the sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Jessami in Ukhrul district was also allegedly vandalised by protesters.

As many as 23 villages of Manipur affected by the contentious Mapithel Dam project took to the streets during the 48-hour-long total shutdown that started from Sunday midnight and will go on till Tuesday midnight.

The shutdown was called to protest against the state government’s cold attitude towards the long-pending demands of the villagers affected by the Mapithel Dam.

On January 24 this year, MDAHCEO had submitted an ‘ultimatum’ to Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh and the department concerned for entering into the Memorandum of Agreement

As per the villagers, chief minister N Biren Singh in 2018 had promised to release the packages related to the Mapithel Dam-affected villagers. However, even after two years, no such arrangement has made from the government’s side.

On January 24 this year, the MDAHCEO had submitted an ‘ultimatum’ to the chief minister and the department concerned for entering into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) based on already agreed terms and points based on November 19, 2018.

But till date, the submitted ultimatum is not yet taken up by them, informed Riha village headman Wungreishung Mahong.

The affected locals are demanding forest rights, fishing rights and economic livelihood packages, among others, from the government. But all these years, the authorities continue to remain unheeded to their demands, he said.

“Employment should be provided to every household of the affected villages on a priority basis with 20% reservation given to affected villages,” a part of the MoA said.

According to locals, they were forced to stage the bandh which started from Sunday midnight to protest against the govt’s lackadaisical attitude

The protest was staged at five different locations along the Mapithel hill range such as Mahadev, Sikibung junction, Gwathabi, Risophung junction and TC Pokpi junction.

Except vehicles plying for medical, electricity, water supply, marriage parties and the media, many vehicles coming from either Imphal or Ukhrul had to return before reaching their destination due to the ongoing strike.

With the support of the state-based CSOs and various organisations like AMUCO, ANSAM, KSO, ATSUM and TMNL, the locals have warned the government to intensify their agitation if the authorities continue to remain mute even after the proposed 48-hour-long strike.

On February 5, MDAHCEO had also submitted a ‘reminder’ letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him not to plan for inauguration of the dam until and unless the rehabilitation and resettlement packages for the families displaced and affected by it are completed.

“Due to the arbitrary and unlawful construction of Mapithel Dam, people of more than 23 villages have become strangers in their own land,” stated the letter submitted to PM Modi.

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