Imphal: The Joint Co-ordination Committee on Tribal Rights Manipur (JCCOTRM), in a memorandum submitted to the chief minister of Manipur, has strongly expressed against the alleged arbitrary decision of the state cabinet on January 25, 2023 regarding the delimitation of district boundary disputes in the state.
“In this regard, we would like to put on record that there have been no boundary disputes between the districts in the state since its inception till today,” the memorandum said. Since there is no boundary dispute amongst the districts of Manipur, the said cabinet decision to conduct delimitation of district boundaries is totally uncalled for and has no basis at all, the tribal committee asserted. “Therefore, the said cabinet decision may be withdrawn at the earliest to avoid unnecessary complications in this regard. Instead of going for unnecessary exercise, the government may transfer all the land records to the respective hill districts as per the Government of Manipur order of June, 2013,” it added.
The memorandum then said, “In view of the stated facts and circumstances as submitted to your good office from time to time, we would once again, request you to kindly take up immediate necessary actions within the month of February, 2023, failing which this committee shall be compelled to take up more stringent actions in collaboration with tribal civil society organisations of the state till our genuine demands are met”.
According to the JCCOTRM, the memorandum was submitted to the chief minister on February 3, 2023. The committee said that the memorandum was in continuation of its earlier memorandum of November of 18, 2022 on land and forest matters as well as other related issues affecting the rights of tribal people of Manipur.
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The memorandum also demanded for the revocation of orders pertaining to the “overlapping villages” in Manipur. Regarding this matter, the committee said, “We are constrained to re-visit the orders as issued by the Secretariat: Revenue Department viz., DRO-106/14/2022-REV-REVENUE, dated 24th October 2022 (Churachandpur & Bishnupur, Tengnoupal & Kakching, Kangpokpi & Imphal East & West) and the subsequent order issued by the respective deputy commissioners relating to the order (as above) regarding list of ‘overlapping villages’ in Manipur”.
According to the JCCOTRM, while it was anomalous to find that all the orders have the same reference number, which in normal circumstances should not be the case as each orders were sent separately to the districts even though the meeting resolution, chaired by the secretary to the chief minister, “our main concern is rather the arbitrary and short-sighted decision”. The committee said that, for such an important decision that has the potential to decide the future of Manipur, it is also odd to note that the meeting was not even at the cabinet level but chaired by a “mere” secretary to the chief minister.
Along with Tripura and Meghalaya, Manipur became a full-fledged state under the North Eastern Region (Reorganisation) Act, 1971 only on January 21, 1972, the committee mentioned. Until that time, Manipur was administered first by the Central Government, it further mentioned. With the accession of Manipur to India in 1947, the political agency exercised by Assam was abolished, the tribal rights committee added. Two years later, Manipur became a Union Territory governed by a chief commissioner and an elected territorial council. In 1969 the office of the chief commissioner was replaced by that of Lieutenant-Governor, whose status was changed to Governor when Manipur became a constituent state of the Indian union on January 21, 1972, it further added.
The JCCOTRM memorandum then appealed to the chief minister, “Hon’ble Sir, please do not speculate as to why we decided to briefly delve into the history of post-Independence India as there is a valid reason on why we do. To put things into perspectives, we just want to prompt your Hon’ble self of the history of post-Independence Manipur and finally, of the post-Manipur Statehood on January 21, 1972 because these narratives now directly affect us, especially after the issuance of your government’s so-called ‘overlapping villages’”.
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According to the JCCOTRM, many of the tribal villages mentioned in the so-called ‘overlapping villages’ have been there even before Manipur was administered by the Central Government of India till January 21, 1972. “Even villages set up after 1972 still have a problem when it comes to administration, especially after the creation of 7 (seven) new districts viz., Tengnoupal, bifurcated from Channel district, Kampong from Ukhrul, Pherzawl from Churachandpur, Kangpokpi from Senapati and Jiribam from Imphal East districts on December 8, 2016 vide Government of Manipur (Extraordinary) Gazette 16/20/2016-R, Government of Manipur (GoM) Secretariat: Revenue Department. It is to be noted that most land and village documents of the villages (aforementioned Government of Manipur’s Orders) are still lodged in several valley district headquarters and yet to be transferred to their proper district headquarters,” the memorandum of the tribal committee pointed out.
The memorandum also said, “In fact, if apt investigations were done prior to the issuing of Secretariat: Revenue Department Orders viz., DRO-106/14/2022-REV-REVENUE, dated 24th October 2022 (Churachandpur & Bishnupur, Tengnoupal & Kakching, Kangpokpi & Imphal East) and the subsequent order issued by the office of the deputy commissioner, Bishnupur, Manipur viz., 3/129/87(R)-DCB(Pt), dated 26th Oct. 2022, it will be established beyond refute that there are no overlapping villages in Manipur”. It added, “As such, any loss, blunder or muddle in land or village records in Manipur, whatsoever, is the fault of the government and not the innocent public. They therefore should not be harassed nor stressed for a fault that is not theirs”.
Inter alia, according to the tribal committee, noting the numerous “discrepancies and irregularities so obvious even to the least untrained eyes” with regard to the aforementioned state government orders, the JCCOTRM appealed to the chief minister to revoke the said orders pending more in-depth research and analysis. “As a peoples’ government, can we not expect this least minimal transparency and accountability from your kind self?”, it asked.
The JCCOTRM then said, “As mentioned earlier, most land and village documents are still lodged in the erstwhile districts where the named villages (aforementioned Government of Manipur’s Orders) are yet to be transferred to their respective district headquarters”. It then asked, “Why such documents are not yet transferred to their respective districts?”
The committee also said that it is rational that such processes should have been thoroughly worked out and executed before orders pertaining to ‘overlapping villages’ or, in other words, ‘proof of village identity’ was issued. “We hope the intent of the state government was well-meaning and that no insidious prejudices played a role. Yet, the demand for transfer of land records does not necessarily mean the MLR &LR Act 1960 should be extended to the Hill Areas of Manipur,” it stated.
Nonetheless, the JCCOTRM demanded that any official record and document pertaining to Hill villages in Manipur before and after Independence be transferred to their proper districts without further ado so as to dispel any administrative and other unwanted political hitches. The committee said that this demand is not unfounded as the state government, in its order bearing Reference No. 3/1/Misc/2008-Com(Rev)Pt, dated 24th April 2013, but not taken steps towards transferring of land records to respective district headquarters. “We are regretfully and most constrained to reiterate that the state government has been very lackadaisical and dragging its feet on this substance. This attitude is most unwholesome and unsustainable to the future of Manipur per se and also to the democratic advancement of our great Indian nation- a cause to which we are fully devoted to”, it added.
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The memorandum alleged that the allocation of villages recognition and other related villages matter to the Revenue department by bifurcating the same from the Hills department is a gross mistake which violates the Hill Village Authority Act, 1956. It also amounts to violation of the MLR&LR ACT, 1960 wherein the Hill Areas and related matters are clearly keep out of the purview of the Act, the tribal committee said. “It may also be noted that V.V.Giri’s Presidential Order, 1972 and Article 371(C) of the Constitution clearly indicates the safeguard provided to the Hill areas and its land holding system from being intruded upon,” it pointed out.
The committee then demanded, “The said office memorandum of August 26, 2008, being the genesis of the present villages overlapping imbroglio which has the potential to outburst into a huge issue, needs to be revoked at the earliest in order to avoid further escalations”.
The memorandum of the JCCOTRM then said that the boundaries of the districts of Manipur are clearly demarcated since 1901 indicating the exact size and boundary of each districts. The committee further said that it is also properly reflected in the Census of India, 2011 Administrative Atlas (in respect of Manipur State) where in, the size, boundaries and locations of all the districts are clearly mentioned. The JCCOTRM added that there is no point for emergence of villages overlapping between one district and the other. “The so-called villages overlapping is therefore, the outcome of administrative inefficiency and undue lapses on the part of the bureaucrats and officials,” the committee further added.
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