Tangkhul CSOs refutes CM N Biren’s statement on ‘Land Ownership’ in Hill Areas

"For us Tribals, land is our identity; We are indigenous to our land and thus are the sole owners of our land.

Ukhrul: The Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL), Tangkhul Shanao Long (TSL), Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long (TNWL), Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong (TKS), Tangkhul Mayar Ngala Long (TMNL) in a joint release have sharply refuted Manipur state chief minister N Biren Singh’s remark over the claim of land ownership in the hill areas of the state.

In a rebuttal to chief minister for a front-page reportage on ‘The People’s Chronicle’ of June 6, 2022, where, according to the release, two articles were juxtaposed besides each other – “COCOMI, UNC demand NRC, Population Commission”, and, “CM Biren resents claim of land ownership in hill areas”, the Tangkhul CSOs in the joint release issued on Sunday, categorically stated that it is the sole owners of its land.

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The chief minister remark, through the DIPR, “…not lay claims of ownership of hills as they belong to the Mother Nature and not to any particular community,” is termed by the Tangkhul CSOs as a “callous and un-informed remark. Calling it “unacceptable,” the release called for immediate withdrawal of N Biren’s remark.

“For us Tribals, land is our identity. This sacred connect with our land has been practiced since time immemorial and is the only legacy passed down to us by our forefathers. We are indigenous to our land and thus are the sole owners of our land. The British, having understood this right from the early days created laws to honor the Tribals’ relationship with their land. This birthright must be respected,” the joint released stated.

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It further pointed out, “In Clause (B) of Section 2 of the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015 (PMP Bill) passed by the Manipur Assembly on 31/08/2015, ‘Manipur People’ is defined as ‘persons of Manipur whose name are in the National Register of Citizens, 1951, Census Report 1951 and Village Directory of 1951 and their descendants who have contributed to the collective social, cultural and economic life of Manipur’. By this definition, many people of the Hills would not qualify for inclusion in the NRC. Proper census was not maintained in the Hills, least of all in 1951. Also, Sections 14A (1) inserted in 31/08/2015, after section 14 of the Principal MLR and LR Act of 1960, states: “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, Non-Manipur persons, firms, institutions or any other similar entities who intend to purchase any land in the State of Manipur shall submit an application to the Deputy Commissioner of the district concerned where the land to be purchased is situated for obtaining the prior approval of the State Government before such purchase is made by him.” In other words, anyone (be they from ‘mainland India’ or the Hills of Manipur) can buy land in the Valley (the Principal MLR and LR Act, 1960 does not extend to the Hills so Section 14 (1) does not apply to the Hills) provided he/she desirous of buying that land procured necessary approval from the State Government.”

The release furthermore pointed out, “The Hills of Manipur, on the other hand, does not permit any non-indigenous person to buy/acquire land – be they from the Valley, ‘mainland India’ or Tribals from other States of India. Article 371C guarantees us this right. The 2nd Schedule of the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972 expressly puts land and land use of the hills under the exclusive purview of the Hill Areas Committee.”

The joint Tangkhul civil bodies then said, “All these measures have been put in place from the colonial times of the British through to the astute Central leadership of the Union of India, in order that the Tribals in the Hills not be alienated from their land. This is not for greed or material requirements but to preserve a relationship which is hallowed.”

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