Imphal: In a significant development within the Manipur Legislative Assembly, BJP MLA Rajkumar Imo Singh, representing Sagolband, has penned an impassioned letter to his fellow legislators. The letter, dated September 10, 2023, addresses the long-standing issue of land ownership and inequality between the valley and hill areas of Manipur.
The conflict that has plagued Manipur since May 3rd has taken a toll on the lives of its residents, leading to loss of life, injuries, displacement, and extensive property damage across the state. The state government has implemented policies aimed at safeguarding indigenous people, combating illegal migration, addressing narcotics issues, and dealing with insurgent groups that violate ceasefire agreements.
Singh’s letter highlights the discrepancy in land laws, particularly the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act of 1960. This legislation, enacted by Parliament, primarily applies to the valley areas and select regions of the hill districts, effectively preventing valley residents from purchasing land in most hill areas of their own state. Singh points out the illogical nature of this law and its inherent bias, given that valley residents can buy land elsewhere in the country and even in foreign countries.
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He goes on to mention the efforts made by his late father, K Jaichandra Singh, during his tenure as Chief Minister in the late 1980s. K Jaichandra Singh had attempted to amend the MLR and LR Act to extend it to the entire state. Despite discussions with village chiefs from the hill districts and other stakeholders to gain their support, this effort failed to gain traction among legislators, including those from the valley.
Singh highlights the irony that powerful tribal leaders, politicians, businessmen, and village chiefs have perpetuated an imaginary threat of valley residents settling in hill districts while themselves owning property in valley areas. Singh emphasizes that extending the act to the hill districts is not about government takeover but rather securing individual property rights, which are currently enjoyed by influential figures.
The letter also references a motion Singh proposed in 2020, urging the state government to rectify the inequality in land laws between valley and hill areas. This motion eventually led to amendments allowing non-tribals to purchase land from tribals in valley regions without requiring permission from the Deputy Commissioner.
Singh’s call to action, where he seeks unity among the members of the Manipur Legislative Assembly to amend the MLR and LR Act, making it applicable to the entire state. He argues that this move will benefit all indigenous people and protect against illegal settlements while ensuring proper revenue records for the state.
As this issue requires changes to an act of Parliament, Singh’s letter serves as a call for unified action and cooperation among legislators to initiate this amendment process at the national level. The proposed amendment could mark a historic step toward land law equality in Manipur, a cause that has garnered significant attention and support within the state.