'Recognise indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and forests'

A consultation on ‘indigenous peoples and forest rights in Manipur’ called to amend and repeal forest laws that are detrimental to rights of indigenous communities.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 28 Feb 2023, 6:18 am

(Photo: IFP)
(Photo: IFP)

Indigenous people who participated on a consultation on ‘indigenous peoples and forest rights in Manipur’ on Monday urged the state government to recognise indigenous people’s right over their land and forest and further amend and repeal forest laws that are detrimental to rights of indigenous communities.

The consultation, which was organised by the Centre for Research and Advocacy (CRA), Manipur,  called to desist unsustainable development projects that destroy forest land and to stop promoting non-native trees and mono-cultivation in Manipur, such as palm oil cultivation in Manipur.

The meeting also called to stop a false solution for climate change targeting forest land and to stop all forms of forced eviction of communities living and depending on forest.

The participants also expressed concern over the show cause notices for declaration of protected areas, reserved forest, national parks and the urgent threats to indigenous peoples with forced displacement, land alienation and impact on their culture and identity.

The meeting resolved to approach all redressal mechanisms including the Human Rights commissions, legal mechanisms and even International Indigenous peoples’ human rights bodies to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights over forest land and further to strengthen empowering communities on indigenous people’s forest rights.

During the consultation meeting, CRA secretary Jiten Yumnam shared that indigenous peoples have intrinsic physical and cultural relationship with their forest land in Manipur.

The pursuit of unsustainable development led to destruction of forest land in Manipur, he said, adding that Tipaimukh dam will submerge more than 27,000 hectares of forest land.

Pointing to the increased eviction of communities depending on forest for pursuance of unsustainable development and false climate solutions to conserve forest, he said the Forest department relies on law enforcing agencies to undermine indigenous peoples’ human rights, such as forced eviction at Kangchup Chiru village in December 2022.

The forest management should ensure full recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights over their forest land.

Environmentalist Themson Jajo shared that indigenous communities living with forest are served with show cause notices under Indian Forest Act, 1927 and Manipur Forest Rules, 1971 to produce land title. Several sections of the Manipur Forest Rules, 1971 undermined indigenous peoples’ rights.


There is a clear need to repeal forest laws, detrimental to the rights of indigenous peoples. Mapithel dam led to submergence of more than 600 hectares of forest land. There is a need to recognize the traditional role of indigenous peoples in sustainable forest management and empower communities to protect forests.

Chairman of Kangchup Chiru village, TR Jacob shared that Kangchup Chiru Reserve Forest has been declared without peoples’ consultation. Survey conducted without villager’s consent and several villagers subjected to forced eviction in December 2022, while several villagers now threatened with eviction.

Villagers are assaulted and arbitrarily detained in police lockup for defending their forest. The Kangchup Chiru villagers are further threatened with eviction as the reserve forest area is being expanded.

Langthabal Chingtha village representative Namjanlung Gangmei shared that the Kabui community has been settling in Langthabal Hills for several generations. However, several villagers were served notice as encroachers.

The prolonged inalienable relationship and villager dependence on forest for livelihood need be honoured.

Sekmai Protection Committee representative Dhana Laimayum shared that the communities of Sekmai village have been managing their forest through traditional customary laws.

Recently, the Manipur Government declared community forest as Government land in Sekmai, which affects more than 60-70 % percent of community forest land. Villagers are concerned if the government takeover of forest will facilitate protection of forest.

Loktak Fisheries Welfare Association secretary, Chaoba Heisnam shared that the community land in Loktak wetlands has been declared as forest land and Wildlife sanctuary and restricted community access for fishing, farming and collection of seasonal herbs, fodder, firewood etc.

The government is expanding the Reserve Forest land in Keibul Lamjao areas. People already suffered due to the 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project by submerging their land.

Tokpaching Forest Rights Committee secretary, Heisnam Basanta shared that indigenous community has been managing forest for generations.

Protected area declared in 1965 without the consultation and consent of people in Tokpaching area under Indian Forest Act, 1927.


The application of Manipur Forest Rules, 1971, Indian Forest Act, 1927 will cause much tension to the communities.

There is an urgent need for repeal of the forest Act, or to amend the forest laws to recognize indigenous rights over their forest. The promotion of mono cultivation degrades forest, leading to drying up of water sources and affecting biodiversity.

The management of forests with indigenous peoples’ participation is crucial, he added.

Joseph Hmar, Hmar Inpui shared that land is not just for livelihood, but also inalienable for culture and identity. It's an unfortunate forest given more importance than people in policy formulations.

Policies affecting land and forest need to be framed with community participation and rights recognition.

The Tipaimukh dam threatens to destroy more than 27,000 hectares of forest land in Manipur.

Rampant logging happens in Tipaimukh region but the Forest Department remains ineffective to prevent deforestation.

Environmentalist John Pamei shared that Land and forest relationship with indigenous peoples was critical and the failure to consult communities caused much tension among communities.

The implementation of India’s Act East policy led to multiple projects, dams, oil exploration, roads, trans Asian railways, oil pipelines etc. that will further target and destroy forest land in Tamenglong and other areas, he said.

Six dams are pursued in Tamenglong and these will unleash massive devastation. There are cases of forest department promoting forestry in community land and later claiming it as forest department land after maturing of trees, he added.


First published:


climate changeenvironmentforest rightsindigenous peoplescra

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur


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