Dams, Indigenous Peoples and Resistance: An Exploration through the Case of Manipur, India

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ngamjahao KIPGEN, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India
Opposition and resistance to developmental projects like dams and hydroelectric projects are increasing in most parts of the Northeast region of India today. Often, these projects mean the destruction of their resource base, forcible eviction and displacement from their traditional homelands and a threat to their cultural identities and subsistence. Based on two case studies in Manipur‒the Mapithel Valley Multipurpose Project on the Thoubal River and the Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project on the Barak River, this paper examines ‘dam’ as a site of contestation between the state’s led development agenda and the affected indigenous people. Based on field experiences, the paper discusses the competing value in relation to ‘resource use’ and ‘ownership’ systems. While the minorities indigenous peoples (Nagas and Kukis) are asserting their inherent rights over land and territory demanding separate autonomy, the state government too is proactively pushing ‘development’ and the ‘land reform policy’ in the hill areas. The indigenous peoples have opposed this dam by asserting that it will displace the inhabitants, threaten their means of existence and violate inherent rights over land and resources. Resistance often invites military intervention thereby increasing state repression, which is evident from the field. The conflicts generated by dams have a spillover impact on all major issues affecting the politics of Manipur today. The controversy over dams invites serious deliberations beyond the mere dam construction and its social and ecological impacts but also gazes the various dynamics and interplay between politics, culture and natural resources. This paper attempts to reinvigorates the very political closure approach which emphasizes state’s hegemony through forceful intrusion into the life, livelihood and ‘life world’ of indigenous people and infringement of their customary land rights.