TODAY -

Arbitrary Land Acquisition in the name of Sports University

Noorshafi A.K. *

Yaithibi Loukon (Yaithibi Khunou Village)



The Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley rightly pointed out that India has failed as a country to introduce sports in its main-stream academic activities and to remedy the situation Modi government decided to set up national-level Sports Academies. The move is highly appreciated in the sport loving state of Manipur and is being welcomed with applause and happiness. With the state government selecting Loushi Loukol near Yaithibi mountain in the Thoubal district as the site for the proposed national level sports university the generous 100 crore fund from the central government is now on its way to buy away the love, care and age old relation that the three communities- Meitei, Naga and Muslims residing in the proposed site shares since its very beginning. However, as a responsible government, the Modi led government will never proceed by disrespecting and violating the constitution of the country.

This "Yaithibi Loukon," (Sora) is agricultural land surrounded by 5 villages comprising of various communities - Naga (Maring at Koijam and Laiching Minou Village), Meitei (at Langthabal), Meitei Christian (Yaithibi Khunou Village) and Muslims (at Sora). It represents the real symbol of unity among various communities considering the age old relation of love, care and respect that these communities share amongst them. Such peaceful relations have become rare in the world and every world conferences for peace and co-operation aims to regenerate it. Unfortunately, the species inhabiting the area does not happen to be animals or else they would have come under the "IUCN Red List" and would have been preserved well.

These villagers depend for their survival upon their agricultural works and they have been paying their tax for the land till date. The proposed land acquisition will affect a total area of approximately 642 Acres comprising 380 acres of agricultural land, 100 acres of habitat areas and 162 acres of hill/forest areas. So, the proposed site has been opposed by the local inhabitants and there have been protests by them against the illegal acquisition of their land.

However, the protests are not at all against the government's plan to set up a National Sports University (as reported by The Sangai Express, a leading Imphal based daily, on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014) but clearly only to save their land which have been their only means of survival. In fact, the villagers, since time immemorial, have been sports loving people. This can be clearly seen from the fact that the football team from this village, Sora, qualified and participated in the Sir Churachand Singh Memorial Football Tournament, popularly known as CC Meet which is a major Football Event of the North Eastern Region of India, just a few years back not to count other successes. Thus, it is not against the proposed Sports University but against the arbitrary acquisition of village land.

On 24th of August 2014, at a public meeting, the Hon'ble Chief Minister's announcement of the proposed site surprised the villagers. The decision was taken by the Government of Manipur without informing the affected farmers. The proceeding which was initiated without following the due process of law affects lives and properties of thousands in the locality. The study of social impact assessment, its public hearing and its publication which are, in fact, mandatory before the proceeding were not carried out.

The government has also failed to comply the provision guaranteed under Sec. 4, Sec. 5, Sec. 6 and Sec. 7 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Initiating land acquisition without informing the matter itself violates the principle of Natural Justice. It also violates the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2014, which was enacted primarily to conserve the paddy land and wetland in order to promote agricultural products in the state.

Yaithibi Loukon (Yaithibi Khunou Village)



The proceeding includes the areas which fall within the jurisdiction of the Hill Areas of Manipur but the Hill Areas Committee (20 MLAs elected from the hill areas) was not consulted. But the Article 371C of the constitution of India and the subsequent Order issued on 20th June, 1972 by the then President of India Shri. V.V. Giri which is known as the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972 mandates that the use of land and allotment of land in the Hill Areas of the State of Manipur is absolutely within the purview of the Hill Areas Committee. So here the government has fail to comply with the provisions of Art. 371C of the Indian Constitution. A vast area of forest is also affected without complying the provisions and rules of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and its rules as the Forest Rights Committee was not informed.

The unconstitutional forced land acquisition includes housing site, churches, kabristan, mosque, agricultural land and forest land. The acquisition affects the following 5 villages:
i. Koijam village (95 houses of Maring Scheduled Tribe)
ii. Laiching Minou Village (150 houses of Maring Scheduled Tribe)
iii. Sora Village (1402 houses of Muslim minority community)
iv. Lanthabal Village (98 houses of Meitei community)
v. Yaithibi Khunou Village (7 houses of Meitei Christian Community)

On the other hand, there are many other suitable lands for the establishment of Sports University in other six districts of Manipur for which the villagers are ready to donate the land free of cost, particularly, Koutruk village in Imphal West district. The Koutruk village has even approached the government offering land and is still ready to offer. Then why this paddy land only where the whole poor population depends their life without any other means for their survival? This certainly raises a serious question on the real intention of the state government against these small communities of Meitei, Muslim and Naga who are tied together by the age old relations of love, peace and harmony. Despite all these unconstitutional steps and violations of human rights and other legal rights, if allowed to proceed without any intervention, the same sports university that should reap the talents of youths of the country may instead end up as an event of shame in the history of the country as the indigenous people will be fighting for their rights till suicide becomes a better option to them.

Sora incident on 7-11-2014



The recent events of state police using force to scare away a peaceful rally (on 24 November, 2014), scuttling their voices and throwing of Holy Qur'an inside the Masjid simply shows that the government would go to any extent to evict the concerned people and snatch their lands leaving them as victims of state forceful acquisition of agricultural land. This is an act of direct challenge to right to life of the farmers. The farmers, having their lands forcibly taken away destroying their religious faith and beliefs and their very survival, might be counter-productive to the state's pride about her diversity.

No doubt, a Sports University could actually help the youth, especially in Manipur, to make a career out of sports and would give birth to many more Mary Koms but it should not be at the cost of poor helpless farmers and that too when there are other suitable and better options. Olympic medallist, Mary Kom, commented, "It is great news for us and we cannot stop celebrating. This budget helps the northeast to dream of a better future in sports".

The law has provisions for state taking over privately held land for public purposes but not for making the Constitution of the country a mockery. The Manipur government has miserably destroyed and defeated the spirit and intention of the mandatory provision of Art. 371C of the Constitution. The right to freedom of religion (Art. 25-28), right to life (Art. 21), and right to property (Art. 300A) becomes a mockery in the state of Manipur if the Churches, Mandirs, Masjid, Kabristan, Cemeteries along with main housing sites including paddy fields and forests are converted into Sports University without following due process of law. Will the impuissance of the poor farmers against the armed State sponsored tyranny and atrocities leave them with no other option but to surrender their only means of survival? Will Mr. Arun Jaitley's eagerness to do something for the development of sports in India be paid with the lives of thousands of poor farmers belonging to a peaceful community of farmers comprising of various religious beliefs in Manipur?

Let us not forget that there are many other suitable lands for establishment of Sports University in other six districts of Manipur for which the villagers are ready to donate the land free of cost. Why the government is willing to sacrifice more and more agricultural lands in the name of development, which is suicidal for the state's economy? Even if the site has to be fixed in this area, for whatever the reason may be, the farmers here are ready to compromise their agricultural land for the sake of the University if it is shifted on the other side or the western side of the NH-102 that divides the lake. The eastern side of the highway has houses and also limited agricultural field while the western side is much broader and wider. In this case, the government must promise to give jobs of the Sports University to each farmer's household irrespective of their education. But the government insists to stick with the narrower but habitat area which clearly leaves the poor inhabitants helpless. It is beyond their understanding.

The real motive of local politicians and concerned authorities is indecipherable by any common citizen. This simply makes anyone wonder if the scheme has anything to do with the affected community. The development and improvement of the poor farmers and marginalized communities have been a concern of every government. Safeguarding their rights, freedom and delivering justice to them has been an utmost importance. Therefore, the government needs to review its stand vis--vis the location of the proposed Sports University.


* Noorshafi A.K. wrote this article for e-pao.net
Noorshafi A.K. is a Stephanian graduate. He can be contacted at noorshafisora(aT)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on December 1 2014.


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