The observation marks the day on November 15, 2011 when state agencies trooped into the village and burned down around seven hundred shelter huts ‘phumshangs’ as part of a failed eviction drive in the lake.
The All Loktak Lake Fishermen’s Union, Manipur (ALLAFUM) observed the 10th Loktak Arson Day anniversary with solemnity at the Champu Khangpok floating village Monday with Salam Sanatomba, executive member ALLAFUM, in the chair.
The observation marks the day on November 15, 2011 when state agencies and forces trooped into the village and burned down around seven hundred shelter huts ‘phumshangs’ as part of a failed eviction drive in the lake.
Opening the event, Oinam Rajen, secretary of the fishers union, recalled the treacherous incident during November in 2011, and later through 2012 and 2013, where Loktak Development Authority officials and state police personnel unleashed arson upon the fisher community, tearing down and burning their shelter huts built on the floating biomass phumdi. All personal belongings of the fishers, including fishing nets, utensils, clothes, solar lamps, mattresses and bedsteads, and even domestic cats and fowls were lost in the arson.
The controversial The Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act of 2006 must be repealed to deliver justice to the marginalized fishing community, Rajen said adding that the Manipur Government had sought in taking up ‘developmental’ projects in the lake areas that had the potential of displacing the fishing community and in impacting the ecosystem of the lake.
Speaking on the occasion, Indigenous Perspective executive director, Ramananda Wangkheirakpam observed that the perpetrators of the arson had little thoughts of sparing the marginalized section of the society and sought to completely drive them out from the lake. This was a gross violation of the fundamental rights of the fishers, he said.
Loktak dweller Oinam Ekashini Devi recalled how the arson took place ten years back and how the hapless villagers were left in dire straits by the authority. They lost all their personal belongings and were totally devastated. Whatever projects are taken up in the lake area have no meaning for the fishing community and the State had forsaken the poor villagers, she said.
Leishangthem Lamyanba, secretary-general DESAM while speaking on the occasion said that the problems faced by the fishing community must reverberate louder across the State in seeking justice to their sufferings caused by the State. The ngamees are the true protectors of the lake, Lamyanba said adding that the people of Manipur should come forward to protect the lake and the indigenous people thriving upon it.
The local fishing community living within Loktak Lake need to raise their voice in national and international forums to redress their rights to life and resource use, environmentalist Salam Rajesh said speaking at the event. The entire water spread of the lake is the territory of life for the fishing community and they have the right to exert their fundamental rights, as is being popularized by the United Nations as part of the global effort in ecosystem restoration of significant natural landscapes.
The event wrapped up in the evening with a dugout canoe rally from Langolsabi locality of Champu Khangpok floating village along the Yangoi Maril up to Liklai Karong where the Nambul River meets with the Nambol River. The fishers raised slogans hailing the deity Loktak Lairembi who protects the environs of the lake through eons. A two-minute silence was held in memory of late Haobijam Kula, founder president of the Union. The event is being held for a week up to the 23rd of this month.