Manipur: Land is our identity says Tangkhul bodies

Imphal, June 12 2022: Tangkhul civil bodies have refuted chief minister N Biren Singh’s recent statement on land ownership in hill areas.

Tangkhul Naga Long, Tangkhul Shanao Long, Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long, Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong and Tangkhul Mayar Ngala Long in joint statement on Sunday said: “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 honour the Tribals’ relationship with their land.

This birth right must be respected”.

The joint statement was in reaction to this paper’s late June 6 reportage (front page) under the headlines “COCOMI, UNC demand NRC, Population Commission”, and, “CM Biren resents claim of land ownership in hill areas” .

The statement continued: “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 names 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.

It elaborated: “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” .

“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 should not be alienated from their land.

This is not for greed or material requirements but to preserve a relationship which is hallowed”, the joint statement contended.

“The callous and uninformed remarks of the Minister of Manipur N Biren Singh, as put out by the DIPR, “…not lay claims of ownership of hills as they belong to the Mother Nature and not to any particular community,” is unacceptable and should be withdrawn immediately”, it demanded.

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