SC directs Center to look into restriction of Mao tribe by Nagaland’s SAPO

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SAYO volunteers checking vehicles at plying at NH-2 at Kigwema (File photo. Ukhrul Times)

New Delhi: In an interesting development, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court of India on Monday has asked the Government of India to look into the issue of the complete ban on settlement, residency, trade and commerce and movement of the Mao Tribe members through the Southern Angami Tribe settlement areas in the State of Nagaland, including the National Highway-2 (Asian Highway-1).

The latest development comes after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed at the Apex Court in relation to the current blockade and quit notice imposed or served by the Southern Angami Public Organization (SAPO) of Nagaland on the Mao Community of Manipur. The PIL was filed by Khurajam Athouba, convener of the Mao-Imphal Market Co-Ordination Committee and vice-president, IPSA under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.

Must read | Manipur govt evacuates stranded Mao people from Nagaland

A three judge bench comprising of the Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Naramsimha and Justice JB Pardiwala has asked the Union of India through the learned Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta to look into the Mao-SAPO issue.

It may be noted that since December 15, 2022, the SAPO and the Southern Angami Your Organization (SAYO) had imposed a blockade on settlement, residency, trade & commerce and movement of Mao Tribe members through Southern Angami Tribe settlement areas in Nagaland and various incidents of violence (burning of vehicles, harassment to Mao Tribe members etc.) have occurred.

Related | Tenyimi Peoples’ Organization House appeal SAPO to lift indefinite Bandh

In a press statement issued by the petitioner stated that such a blockade and incidents of violence have been sought to be linked by the Southern Angami Tribe members to their alleged traditional and tribal rights over the 32.29 sq. km. Koziirii Forest and to two-third of the Dzuko valley (11.28 sq. kms.), which are otherwise within the undisputed constitutional boundary of Manipur.

Though efforts have been made in the past to resolve the issue through tribal bodies, nothing material has come about till now, it stated.

Further, the petitioner mentioned that neither the State of Nagaland nor the Union of India has taken steps to safeguard the basic fundamental rights of the Mao Tribe for the past 105 days and it was in such circumstances that it was considered necessary to approach the highest Court of India for its due intervention for speedy justice. 

Related | Mao Council rejoinder to SAPO: ‘Our silence severely misconstrued’

Most specifically, the embargo on Mao Tribe people for access to National Highway-2 (Asian Highway-1) has severely affected movement of Mao Tribe members and their business, it stated.

Mention be made here that Khuraijam Athouba had filed the Public Interest Litigation in the month of February, 2023 through his lawyer, Ngangom Junior Luwang, Advocate, Supreme of India, for the protection of the fundamental rights of the Mao Tribe people by giving adequate security protection, due compensation of Mao Tribe victims of the unlawful acts of SAPO and SAYO and for declaration of these two organisations as unlawful associations under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. 

After hearing advocate Ngangom Junior Luwang, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has sought some time. The Apex Court has listed the next hearing on March 20, 2023 since the matter is urgent to be addressed. Also, the Solicitor General has been specifically asked to render all possible assistance. 

Also read | ‘Naga political issue through divine intervention’ says NSCN-IM’s mouthpiece Nagalim Voice

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