Demolitions intensify as Delhi prepares for G20; Manipur simmers after tribal evictions

Beautification, Destruction in Delhi
For those living in Delhi, you might have noticed a face-lift the national capital has received in the past few months. A beautification drive is underway with full fervour to prepare for the Group of Twenty or G20 summit in September. India will be presiding and hosting the meet this time. This beautification drive, however, is accompanied by a demolition drive across the city. 

Demolitions have become frequent, and brutal. Homes of thousands of Delhi residents in working class neighbourhoods — an unpleasant sight for India’s international image for many — are being wiped off the map. With scorching summer ahead, those living there are left with no roofs over their heads.

The past few weeks, our researchers Mukta Joshi and Prudhviraj Rupavath visited these localities, spoke to people and witnessed the destruction of their lives and livelihoods. Many had lived in these homes for decades. With more than 1,600 homes demolished and over 3,000 eviction notices served, nearly 2.5 lakh lives have been impacted by a series of evictions and demolitions. They found how people, documented and tax paying citizens, were suddenly uprooted — at times without notices — with no rehabilitation or relief in sight. Read this in-depth report on Article 14.

Manipur Burns
We’ve all seen terrifying visuals from the northeastern state; of arson, destruction and protests from across Manipur. But how did it all start? The origins of the current conflict can be traced to state forest officials evicting members of the tribal Kuki community, with help from the state police, from their homes in forest areas of the hills of Manipur. This happened in February in the district of Churachandpur. 

The anger was largely against two things executed by the state government and its officials: one, the state attempted to declare the forests — traditionally tribal-owned and inhabited hill areas — as protected forests, and two, officials ordered a verification drive alleging encroachments of forest areas by “illegal immigrants”. Agitating tribals claim that it's illegal for the government to take over their ancestral lands by declaring them as reserved forests and wildlife sanctuaries. East Street Journal Asia brings more details.

LCW Policy Talks
Later today, we’ll be hosting an interaction with our state researcher Aishwarya Mohanty who wrote our April Natural Resource Policy Brief analysing the status of implementation of forest rights in Odisha. These interactions are a part of our paid membership, but this time, we are opening it up to everyone! The interaction is at 4 pm over Zoom.

The session will focus on Aishwarya’s dispatch from Odisha, where she explained how non-consultation with key stakeholders has caused indefinite delays in the formal recognition of rights of forest villages. And how this non-recognition prevents tribal and forest dwelling communities from availing benefits of government welfare schemes.

If you want to read our monthly policy briefs, consider signing up as a member of the LCW community. And if you think we’re going to paywall everything, we reassure you that this newsletter, all our reports published in the media, and our database are and will remain free for you. You can, however, help us keep it so by becoming a member.

New in our Database

We currently have 663 ongoing conflicts documented in the LCW database. Last month, our team of researchers added eight new conflicts to this database. We list a few:

  • In Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, over a thousand families were accused of encroachment of animal “corridors” and were being evicted. Following protests, the evictions now stand halted, reports researcher Emilo Yanthan.  

  • The Bombay High Court has stayed the construction of a road through Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in South Goa. Environmentalists claim that the road could destroy its ecology, researcher Malavika Neurekar reports.  

  • In South Sikkim, communities have protested against the construction of a wall by a pharmaceutical company, claiming that the company was encroaching on forest land and hampering the environment, reports researcher Emilo Yanthan.

  • About 51 people in Mumbai’s Versova mangroves were evicted after the administration demolished constructions in April last year. Researcher Shubham Kothari found that they have faced evictions since 2018 after the Bombay High Court declared all mangroves as reserve forests.

  • In Rajasthan’s Churu district, villagers held protests against the state government’s move to reduce the eco-sensitive zone around Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary. The Rajasthan High Court, however, ordered a stay on the move, writes Nayantara Narayan.

Keeping a Distance

In June last year, the Supreme Court had directed the mandatory creation of one kilometre of eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around protected areas. The order gave special powers to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, a top-level state forest official, to decide what activities would be allowed in these ESZs, threatening existing constructions in these areas. This would also extend their authority beyond forestlands to revenue lands as well. All this triggered mass protests across Kerala. 

In September 2022, the Union government approached the apex court to modify the previous order stating that it is likely to cause “great hardship to the citizens residing in the ESZs”.

On April 26, the court modified its earlier order on the minimum width of ESZs, stating that it cannot be uniform but must be site-specific. The court reasoned that if the earlier order is not modified, then eco-development activities such as tourist facilities, community structures for the local communities and infrastructure for wildlife protection officials, around protected areas cannot be carried out, resulting in more man-animal conflicts.

Mrinali, Climate Change Research Lead
Furquan Ameen, Associate Editor