Finding fault with chief minister N Biren Singh’s statement – “all the land belongs to the government and it has the authority to use those lands for development and welfare of the people,” the apex body of the Tangkhul headmen association – Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long (TNWL) said that using land for development purposes with the consent of the village authorities or the apex tribal communities body is different from forceful occupation of lands.
The widely reported news item of chief minister N Biren Singh’s speech in the state media publications delivered in the recent tree plantation held at Mangol village and Kanglatongbi at Kangpokpi reserved forest under the banner of Forest department in Kangpokpi district on Monday (July 5, 2021) is a direct challenge to the Hill populace of the state as we have separate land holding system as our land, resources and cultural heritage is well protected under the provision of article 371 (C) of the Indian Constitution. No external forces or for that matter state government has any say in this matter, a statement issued by SA. Ramnganing, president TNWL on Friday said, and added that on the pretext of development, government should not claimed absolute authority over the lands of the Hill inhabitants..
Genuine initiatives to bridge the development disparities between the Valley and Hill areas is well appreciated, it remarked. But terming “Every land belongs to the government” is not only politically incorrect but an act of directly challenging constitutionally protected rights of the Hill people under article 371 C, it alleged.
Maintaining that development and rightful owner of the lands are two different subject, it alleged that just because government has taken up people centric developmental works doesn’t meant the rightful owner of the land is surrendered to the government.
On what basis government would encroach on the land of the hill peoples? it questioned, and added that in the rush to seduce and lure the people with development package with the hidden intent to supersede the original owners of the land is similar to sycophants heaping honey coated speeches to political masters, which it said no right thinking person would dared ventured let alone tried.
It then alleged that while appealing the general public to cooperate in the developmental activities, N Biren had urged the people of the state not to toe the line of independent ownership of land.
If then, who should be the rightful owner of Hill lands and its resources? it lambasted.
It continued that a sense of brotherhood and belongingness will come when the rights of each community is respected and due space is given, and not in tall talk political gimmick. Because land is older than human race and it knows well to whom it belongs, referring to aboriginals.
But his speech lacked political maturity and he failed to see through beyond the spoken words which had its inner meaning, the statement read.
Why would a state chief minister not know the historical background of the state he calls his land. A remote state like Manipur is inhabited by myriads of communities each having their distinct identities and culture. Amid the differences, each community shares a meeting point and maintain balance. It does not happen by itself. As a veteran politicians he knows better, it said.
Asserting that it would protect the inalienable rights of the hill dwellers, it cautioned the people not to be confused with developmental enticement with land ownership. As the custodian of our land, resources and its rich cultural heritage, we will always standby and protect our inherent birthright through thick and thin.
It then appealed the citizens of hill populace not to fall for avalanche of developments that may slowly but surely usurp its land and become a refugee in a place they call their home. Any development that fails to find balance and recognise the inherent rights embedded with the lives of the people that inhabits the land would be a short sighted vision bereft of any long term sustainability.