Vested interest groups behind CCpur violence : COCOMI
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, May 02 2023: The Coordination Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) has stated that the recent mob violences at Churachandpur and some other places of the State were instigated by vested interest groups who stoked religious sentiment and used the same as a political platform.

Speaking to media persons at the Konung Mamang office of CCSK this afternoon, COCOMI Coordinator Jitendra Ningomba said that some people have been working deliberately to create distrust and hatred among the communities by portraying the Government's initiative to check extensive deforestation activities and establishment of new villages within reserved/protected forest areas in the wrong light.

As per the Indian Forest Act 1927, there are 36 Reserved Forests and 22 Protected Forests in the State but these reserved/protected forests have been encroached from many different directions and many new villages have been set up.

Vested interest groups behind CCpur violence : COCOMI
Vested interest groups behind CCpur violence : COCOMI

Rather than portraying the Government's initiative to check destruction of forest and ecology in the wrong light, all the people ought to cooperate with the Government's initiative, he said.

Categorically stated that it was trespassing and establishment of villages and Churches inside reserved forests which was illegal in the first place, COCOMI said it is not the eviction which was carried out later after following due procedure as per the established law to protect forests from exploitations.

A statement issued by the COCOMI said that it is deeply concerned with the recent issue regarding the violent activities committed by certain groups from Churachandpur district headquarters in protest against the eviction drive by Forest Department at K Sonjang Reserve Forest area under an organization called Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), Manipur.

It also quoted from the press statements of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum, Manipur and the All Lamka United Youths "Declaration of tribal lands as Protected Forests/Reserved Forests, Wildlife Sanctuaries and the like as well as wetlands is an attempt to drive tribal out of their ancestral lands.

The demolition of Churches, without even so much as giving the Church time to clear their moveable possessions is nothing but a show of brute force" .

"The policy of establishing historical claims over tribal villages through distorted history such as that in the Chandrakirti Park, Tonzang, is another nefarious policy to grab tribal lands" .

The above statements from the tribal groups lack any legal basis as they find it judicious to encroach into reserved forest areas.

In the eyes of the law, it is illegal in the first place when the group of people trespassed and established villages and Churches inside the reserved forest area but not the eviction which was carried out later after all sort of due procedure as per the established law to protect the forest from exploitations.

"We do understand that evicting houses and Churches often attracts emotional sentiments but it should have been cautioned by the concerned local leaders in the first place instead of instigating the people later", the COCOMI said.

Playing the card of Churches and religious sentiments could have a very negative impact on the sanctity and holiness of all the Churches and its followers in the State.

And misuse of Churches and its establishment as a tool to organize agitations and act against the law of the land could demean the very idea of worshipping God for truth and justice in Churches by the Christian community in Manipur and it could take down the essence of all the standing Churches in Manipur to jeopardy, it said.

Organizations in Churachandpur and other hill districts who don't have allegiance to the idea of the State of Manipur and its civilizations cannot be held accountable or responsible in any form of campaign or demand as their lack of integrity and dedication towards the State of Manipur is questionable and any such group or organization, armed or unarmed shall be faced by COCOMI at all cost to defend and maintain the status quo of the existing State as one entity, it asserted.

On the other hand, the public rally being organised by various tribal organizations on May 3 at the hill districts is considered as just another attempt by the vested interest groups to disturb the developing peaceful co-existence of various ethnic communities, and such dissent and challenging action from the hill brethren will only help the vested interest groups to take optimum advantage of the situation, it said.

The recent press release of an organization called Mizo Zerlai Pawl (MZP), based in Aizawl, Mizoram is one example of a vested interest group which is foolhardy enough to interfere in the domestic affairs of Manipur from beyond.

The over ambitious Mizo people of Mizoram didn't understand the very essence of the Inner Line Permit System in Manipur until they found themselves regulated while visiting the State of Manipur.

Mizoram has ILP system since the enactment of this Regulation during the British era, and the so called MZP of Mizoram never ever acknowledged the necessity of relaxing ILP for the North East brethren in the past, the COCOMI remarked.

People of Manipur visiting and working in Mizoram have been under the regulation of Mizoram ILP but it is only now when Manipur regulates the Mizo people while entering Manipur after the enactment of the same law in Manipur very recently in 2019 that they expressed concern.

Such an exclusive attitude of the MZP will never achieve anything positive until they realize the idea of inclusiveness at least among the Mongoloid stock of people in Western South East Asia (WESEA) and NE in particular.

As per the established law of the land which Mizoram is also very much a part of, it would be good for MZP to realize that any community which resides in Manipur are citizens of the State and 'Mizoram MZP' has no reason to interfere.

Their over ambitious statement and expressions could only make the groups and communities in Manipur who consider themselves as Mizo being alienated.

Mentioning the Meetei people in Mizoram and holding them as liabilities to counter enforcement of ILPS to Zo people of Mizoram could be a big mistake.

COCOMI would not remain silent if any citizen of Manipur, be it Meetei, Naga, Kuki or Pangal who are staying in Mizoram for work and other businesses are intimidated in any form.

It will be dealt with accordingly with all possible means and as per the established law of the land, it said.

On the other hand, the role played by MLA Paolenlian Haokip during the violent agitation in Churachandpur was commendable.

"We believe the Hon'ble MLA can now explain to the agitators with whom he often interacted during the heated time that 'Eviction from the Reserved Forest areas by State Govt is the Constitutional duty of the State Govt and they are doing their duty, and the land and forest belong to the State and not to anybody, individual or groups' as stated by the Union Minister of Forest and Environment on April 29, 2023 in Imphal, the COCOMI continued.

Eviction drives have been conducted in almost all the areas where Meeteis, Pangals, Nagas and Kukis have encroached and the incident at K Sonjang area was no different from any other, it pointed out.

It is the obligation of the COCOMI and all the right-thinking groups from across all ethnic communities to safeguard and protect the forest, wetlands, rivers and all the natural resources at all cost to secure the future of this land, it said.

It is the Constitutional right of the tribal brethren to demand their wishes to the Govt but they should see that the cordial and respectful relationships shared among the communities are not disturbed while pursuing their demands.

To resolve the ongoing crisis and problems due to expansion/establishment of unfounded numbers of villages in the hill areas of Manipur, illegal encroachment inside reserve forest areas and massive poppy cultivation which leads to deforestation and scarcity of water and rising temperature must stop.

It is of urgent importance to identify and check all the unrecognized villages and their inhabitants.

The stiff opposition raised by certain sections during any attempt to check the sensitive areas is suspicious in nature and native community organizations and groups like KSO, ANSAM, ATSUM, UNC, KIM etc should give cooperation in identifying the illegal immigrants and villages throughout the hill areas of the State and the State also needs a strong and strict law to identify and regulate all such activities to make the State stable and make administration efficient.

The United Naga Council (UNC) and the COCOMI have agreed to support the Govt toward updating and implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the State at the earliest, it said.

"We again finally appeal to the Govt of Manipur to earnestly initiate all necessary formalities to pursue the Union Govt for NRC, failing which COCOMI will resort to all forms of agitation" it said.

NRC could be one vital step to resolve some of the major issues in the State, it added.

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