TODAY -

TNWL rebuts CM's claim on state's land ownership
Source: Chronicle News Service / R Lester Makang

Ukhrul, July 09 2021: Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long (TNWL) on Friday refuted Chief Minister Biren's claim that all lands in the state belong to the government, pointing out that tribal lands are protected by Article 371 (C) of the Indian Constitution.

In a press communique, TNWL president AS Ramnganing said that CM Biren's claim is a direct challenge to the hill populace of the state who have separate land holding system and their lands, resources and cultural heritages are well protected under Article 371 (C) of the Indian Constitution.

"No external forces, or for that matter, not even the state government has any say in this matter," he said.

CM Biren reportedly made the controversial claim during a recent mass tree plantation held at Mangjol village and Kanglatong-bi-Kangpokpi Reserved Forest, under the aegis of Forest department as part of Van Mahotsav 2021 celebration on 5 July last.

Contending that Biren's statement lacked political maturity, Ramnganing said that he (CM) failed to see through beyond the spoken words which possibly had an inner meaning.

"Genuine initiatives to bridge the development disparities between the Valley and Hill areas is well appreciated.

But his claim that 'every land in the state belongs to the government' is not only politically incorrect but an act of directly challenging the constitutionally protected rights of the hill people", he said.

He continued that a sense of brotherhood and belongingness among the communities would happen only when the rights of each community is respected and given due space, and not through the means of a political gimmick.

"Land is older than human race and it knows well to whom it belongs," he said, referring to the aboriginals.

According to the leader of the village chiefs' body, using land for development purposes with the consent of the village authorities or the apex bodies of tribal communities is different from forceful occupation of lands.

Accusing CM of trying to confuse the tribal land ownership in the hills with development, Ramnganing pointed out that "while appealing to the general public to cooperate in the developmental activities, he (Biren) had urged the people of the state not to toe the line of independent ownership of land".

He said that the government cannot claim authority over the lands of the hill inhabitants on the pretext of developmental projects.

"Developments and rightful ownership of the lands are two different subjects.

Just because the government has taken up people-centric developmental works doesn't mean the rightful owners of the land have surrendered their lands and resources to the government," he contended.

Questioning on what basis would the government encroach on the lands of the hill peoples, Ramnganing said that: "In a bid to seduce and lure the people with development package with the hidden intent to supersede the original owners of the land, the government has resorted to some acts that are similar to sycophants heaping honey coated speeches to political masters which no right thinking person would dare to venture, let alone attempting".

He also expressed doubt as to why a state chief minister would not be aware of the historical background of the state he called his land.

"A remote state like Manipur is inhabited by myriads of communities, each having their distinct identities and cultures.

Amid the differences, each community shares a meeting point and maintains balance.

It does not happen by itself.

As a veteran politician, he knows better".

Ramnganing said that inalienable rights of the people may not be confused with developmental enticement.

"As the custodian of our land, resources and rich cultural heritages, we would always standby and protect our inherent birth right through thick and thin," he stated.

Asserting that citizens of the hills would do well not to fall for avalanche of developments, he cautioned that the same may slowly but surely usurp their lands and make them refugees in a place they call their home.

"Any development that fails to find balance and recognises the inherent rights embedded with the lives of the people that inhabit the land, would be a short sighted vision bereft of any long term sustainability," he added.


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