April 28, 2023


The Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples, International Accountability Project, The Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre, All India Kisan Sabha (Assam Unit), and the undersigned individuals and organizations are deeply concerned about the land grabbing and continuing human rights violation by Azure Power 40 Pvt Ltd against the Adivasi and Karbi peoples of Mikir Bamuni area by manipulating the land laws of Assam. More concerning is that this was done without their free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) violating their human rights, livelihood, cultural identity, and dignity. Azure Power 40 Pvt Ltd and the Assam Govt must respect and recognize the collective and individual rights of the Adivasi and Karbi peoples of Mikir Bamuni, and no means no.

To achieve a just transition to renewable energy it is imperative to guarantee the recognition and protection of the  rights of Indigenous Peoples to own, control, and manage their lands, territories, and resources. Further, accessible and gender sensitive grievance mechanisms should be ensured for the redress of grievances of affected Indigenous Peoples.


From Farmland to Solar Panels: Azure Power Accused of Grabbing Indigenous FarmLand

During the 2020 pandemic, the land of the Adivasi and Karbi peoples was taken by Azure Power 40 Pvt Ltd (company) for a 15 MW solar plant in Mikir Bamuni Grant village in the Nagaon district of Assam, Northeast India.

The solar farm is already set up, and Azure carried it out without respecting the rights of the Adivasi and Karbi peoples to their land and to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). The news of installing solar plants in their farmlands came through local dalals or brokers.  They were told a company wanted their land and that they should take the money and give up their land. To set up the solar power plant in Mikir Bamuni, the company bought 285 bighas (38 hectares) of land from the erstwhile Zamindar’s family, who was originally granted the Mikir Bamuni Land Grant. However, the validity of the land deal is challenged in court, and now, it stands as a civil dispute with contested claims.

The historical and social context of the area and the local communities affected by the project

Mikir Bamuni Grant village: The village is home to Adivasi and Karbi Indigenous Peoples. The land sold to Azure Power is part of a larger land grant – Mikir Bamuni Land Grant No. 1, made up of 945 bighas (127 ha) – initially given for tea cultivation to several individuals. As per RTI information, one of the grant holders is Ambika Aideo, whose grandchildren have sold the land under the question to Azure Power. This region is marked by large zamindaris, or feudal landed estates, of which Mikir Bamuni is one such holding. However, these feudal land conditions were challenged by the Assam (Temporarily Settled Areas) Tenancy Act 1971. It says that a piece of this land cultivated by a tenant for more than three years has the right to occupancy. After that, it may be converted into the exclusive private property of the tenant. The Indigenous Peoples of Mikir Bamuni hold rights under this law to the land.

Mikiruni Bamuni, which lies at the foothills of the Karbi Hills and the Karbi and Adivasi farmers have been cultivating these lands for generations. Their occupancy rights were granted in the early eighties. As a result, they have a legal claim over the lands sold to the company and documents to prove it.

Ignoring these claims and the rights of the peoples in the area, Azure Power purchased the land from a handful of individuals belonging to a single family, descendants of the original grant holder. However, land can only be bought or sold in the form of a periodic patta, called miyadi patta, in Assam. To carry out the sale deed, the land tenure system governing the land of Mikir Bamuni was converted from a grant to a periodic patta, rendering it into the individual and exclusive private property of the Zamindar family members. This change in land tenure was made as part of a cabinet decision since land is a state subject.

Human Rights violations carried out against the Karbi and Adivasi farmers to silence their voices

  1. May 23, 2020: As per the villagers, a day after they began to plow their fields, nine people were called to the police station, despite strict lockdown guidelines. They were subsequently detained and beaten in the Police Station under Samaguri Division and kept in custody till 10:30 pm without any food. Finally, they were released after being told not to work on the land.
  2. October 08, 2020: As per the villagers and media reports, Azure Power’s security personnel and police officials reached the power plant site with bulldozers and razed the sown paddy crop. In the afternoon of the same day, there was a confrontation between villagers and, the company security & some locals who supported the project. On the same day, 14 villagers were arrested for allegedly beating up someone who settled for the company’s offer. The villagers also shared that Malini Doloi, Sarumai Murmu, Makoni Mardi, and Rupta Sing Narpi were badly injured. These 14 people were presented before the court only 48 hours later. They were released after 12 days.
  3. October 08, 2020: In the matter of Sri Barsingh Kro versus The State of Assam and Ors (M.J. Case No. 33/2020 c/w with Title Suit No. 69/2020), Judge Mridul Kumar Kalita of District Court, Nagaon ordered explicitly restraining Azure Power Forty Private Ltd or any authority from dispossessing/evicting the plaintiff from the land. The order was not opened for 48 hours (due to COVID protocol). In the meantime, they were razing the crops to the ground.
  4. December 11, 2020: According to the villagers, the construction work of the solar power plant started in the presence of police forces. The villagers confronted them.
  5. December 29, 2020: Per the villager’s testimonies, Police forces and company officials returned to start construction. The villagers, including women, elders, and children, resisted such efforts but were overpowered by the company personnel and police. Men and women were attacked, resulting in injuries to many of them. Buku Mardi, one of the villagers, was beaten senselessly and taken into police custody until March 2, 2021. The Superintendent of Police(SP) of Nagaon has said that a woman constable was also hurt in the altercation and was hospitalized.
  6. December 30, 2020: As per the villager’s testimonies, police came to the village at 1 am and forcibly entered into people’s homes and picked up three more persons (Sikari Rongpi, Lakhiram Mardi, and Bhaity Timung), allegedly for instigating the attack on 29 December 2020 on police forces.
  7. FIR filed by Police on 29 December 2020- Sections: 120(B), 109, 147, 148, 447, 294, 353, 333, 336, 427, 307 (Attempt to Murder – non-bailable in the lower court – bail was finally sought for the four arrested from High Court) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) against 1) Kasang Kropi (f), 2) Moina Milikpi (f), 3) Kabe Ingtipi (f), 4) Rina Terongpi (f), 5) Buku Mardi (m), 6) Lakhiram Mardi (m), 7) Sitaram Murmu (m), 8) Bhaiti Timung (m), 9) Sikari Rongpi (m), 10) Sona Sing Teron (m)  – Out of these accused, 4 were in jail till March 2, 2021- Sikari Rongpi, Lakhiram Mardi, Bhaity Timung and Buku Mardi.
  1. January 01, 2021: As per the villager’s testimonies, Champa Timung, Sikari Rongpi’s wife, was kicked by the police personnel during the confrontation between police and villagers on 29 December 2020. She suffered a miscarriage.See:
  1. May 10, 2021: After a long hiatus in construction and vacating the stay order, Azure Power restarted construction by bringing in CRPF personnel in the middle of the lockdown. After this incident a statement was issued:

The above violent actions meted out to the indigenous farmers of Mikir Bamuni are a clear violation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which set out a framework for businesses to respect human rights and avoid causing or contributing to adverse impacts on human rights.

Renewable energy companies such as Azure Power 40 Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Azure Power Pvt Ltd, are supported by international financial institutions like International Finance Corporation, PROPARCO, KfW, DEG, and FMO, among others. Therefore, they have a unique responsibility to ensure that its operations are carried out sustainably and respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights, who are often forcibly made to host on their territories. These responsibilities include respecting the rights to free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples and other communities in and around their operations, conducting due diligence to identify and mitigate potential adverse human rights impacts, and establishing a mechanism for receiving and addressing community grievances.

We call upon Azure Power Limited to take immediate steps to ensure that this solar power plant in Mikir Bamuni Land Grant upholds the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, is compliant with the Performance Standards of IFC (as is mentioned on their website) and respects the rights of the Karbi and Adivasi farmers of Mikir Bamuni. We call upon you to:

  1. Respect the Right to Free Prior and Informed Consent: We demand that you respect the right to FPIC of the Indigenous Peoples of Mikir Bamuni. Azure Power must engage and have a meaningful and transparent consultation whereby all the members of Mikir Bamuni must be present, ensuring that their views and concerns are considered in all decisions that affect them. Further, you must provide them with all relevant information about your operation in a language they will understand.
  1. Conduct Due Diligence: We demand that you conduct due diligence to identify and mitigate all the past two years’ human rights impacts resulting from your solar farm. We also demand that you take the necessary steps to prevent such future violations against the indigenous farmers of Mikir Bamuni and other areas. These steps include assessing potential human rights impacts, engaging with affected communities, and taking appropriate measures to prevent or mitigate any adverse impacts.
  1. Provide Remedy: We demand that you provide an effective remedy to each individual and the community of Mikir Bamuni who have been harmed and have been suffering by your solar plant. These remedies include compensation or restitution, restoring the affected areas to their previous state, and taking steps to prevent similar harm from occurring in the future.
  1. Accountability: We demand that Azure Power Pvt Ltd takes responsibility for the harm caused by its actions and holds itself accountable for all the violations being meted out against the residents of Mikir Bamuni (See above). We demand that you conduct an independent investigation, make a public apology, and implement appropriate remedies to prevent such violations.

We urge you to take these steps urgently and look forward to your response.

We call on the Assam Govt to recognize and respect the rights of the Karbi and Adivasi Indigenous Peoples and support them in returning their land from Azure Power.

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