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‘Law breaking day’ observed

Imphal, May 20: About 500 former residents of Imphal’s Naga River Colony, who were evicted and their houses dismantled on this day last year, observed the day as “law breaking day”.

The Manipur government had removed the residents from the area after demolishing 35 houses for construction of a five-star hotel on the 1.5 acre colony in the public-private partnership mode to promote tourism in the state.

The government, which also demolished three churches, claimed that the residents were holding fake land deeds and had encroached upon the land.

The residents had moved Manipur High Court against the eviction. The high court dismissed the petition. The residents then approached the Supreme Court, claiming that their deeds were issued by the government and were genuine. The case is pending before the apex court.

“We observed the day to remind the government of its injustice to the residents who had lived in the colony for more than 50 years. The programme also reaffirmed our stand that we will fight till justice is done,” said Panti Gonmei, co-convener of the Joint Action Committee Against Forced Eviction of Naga Riverlane.

The government, which has declared the residents encroachers, has not paid any compensation to them. They are now sheltered in the houses of friends and relatives. Some have gone back to the hills while some are staying in rented houses and facing hardships.

“Two persons died while a woman has gone insane after the eviction,” Gonmei said.

Lawyers, social activists and politicians were among those who denounced the “illegal action” of the government “without following the procedures” laid down by the Land Acquisition Act.

“What the government did was not right. Because of the government’s action citizens are suffering. This should not happen again,” Grace Shatshang, convener of the action committee, said.

The protesters resolved to observe the day until justice is done and to stand firmly against any form of human rights violations.