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CM’s remark ‘all lands belongs to state’ shows ‘Orwellian nature’ of his regime: KSO-GHQ

FILE PHOTO: Chief Minister N Biren Singh

The student body also alleged that it is no secret that since the Biren government came to power, such divisive tendencies in the state have increased manifold using the various big media platforms for spreading such hatred and animosity between communities.

TFM Kangpokpi Representative

Criticising chief minister N. Biren Singh’s ‘all lands belongs to the state’ statement on the occasion of the Van Mahotsatva 2021 and mass tree plantation drive on July 5 at Mangjol village in Kangpokpi district, the Kuki Students’ Organization General Headquarters took a jibe at the chief minister stating that it showed the “Orwellian nature of his regime”.

The student body, in a release, stated that the CM demonstrated his ignorance of extant laws and does not seem to have any understanding of the doctrine of ‘public trust’ while adding that CM’s statement not only undermines the sentiments of the local inhabitants and the tribal populace of the state, but also shows the Orwellian nature of his regime with total disregard for all norms of public opinion and democratic values.

It contended that the Kangpokpi-Kanglatongbi Reserved Forest (KK Reserved Forest) still remained a contested site between the local inhabitants and the state government and it would have been a wiser act on the part of the latter to refrain from taking up any development projects until the status of the contested sites is amicably resolved.

KSO further opined that the statement also undermined the historicity of the hill peoples and their rights to land ownership. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 not only recognised and vests the forest rights but also the occupation of such forest land by Scheduled Tribes to address the “historical injustice”. This Act gives them the “right to hold and live in the forest land”. The Act restricts the state’s eminent domain power, it added.

It also stated that the statement, along with the declaration of Koubru Reserve Forest, contradict the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1992. Article 5(1) of the Declaration states that “National policies and programs shall be planned and implemented with due regard for the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities” while adding that the disposition of tribal land and their livelihood is in contravention to the UN Declaration.

“CM Biren Singh’s statement also undermined the constitutional protections and safeguards given to the hill tribes under Article 371 (C) of the Indian Constitution in relation to their land ownership systems, land, resources, and their culture”.

Further, the statement also undermined the existing provisions in the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 which exempted the ‘hill areas’ from the purview of operations of the said Act, KSO contended and “reminded” CM Biren that although the state, especially democratic states, have the sovereign power to enforce its will upon its citizens and throughout its territory, its powers are not absolute given that the state derives its powers and authority from the people themselves.

“Therefore, our Chief Minister’s claim of “all lands belongs to the state”, as much as it sounds preposterous, undermines the constitutional rights of the hills peoples as enshrined in the Indian Constitution under Article 371 (C) and the existing land relations between the hills and valley under the MLR and LR Act’ 1960,” it argued.

It further said that keeping in view of the several attempts by successive state governments to undermine the existing land relations between the hills and plains through the implementation of ‘uniform land laws’ for the hills and plains and attempts to grab tribal lands in the name of development projects or through the declaration of tribal lands as ‘Reserved Forests’ or ‘Protected Sites’ through overt and covert means, such statements only added to the fears and apprehensions of the hills peoples, thereby, with a potential to widen ‘hill-valley divide’ in the state.

The KSO also requested CM Biren Singh to desist himself from ‘populist politics’ and at the same time check fringed elements and organisations who have been spreading communal hatred by alleging the Kukis in general and those inhabiting the vicinity of the Koubru Range in particular as ‘foreigners’ or ‘illegal immigrants and so on it stated.

The student body also maintained that it is no secret that since his (N Biren Singh) government came to power, such divisive tendencies in the state have increased manifold using the various big media platforms for spreading such hatred and animosity between communities.

“However, it is ironic to see the current regime under CM Biren Singh remaining a silent spectator rather, it appears to us more like if our Chief Minister, Biren Singh is using such fringe elements for his ‘populist politics’ and personal political gains,” it said.

It continued that the state as a ‘reconciler’ of interests, or as a means to conflict resolution in a multi-ethnic and pluralistic society like Manipur is expected not to act at the behest of a particular community, religion or sect.

It further said that CM Biren Singh, as the chief face and guardian of the state, ought to have the highest commitments to such multi-ethnic and pluralistic values of the state.

“It is imperative for our Chief Minister, Biren Singh to keep in mind that the hills peoples in general and the people of Kangpokpi district in particular are not anti-development projects. What is important is that any development projects in the hill areas should be executed or implemented through due considerations of the needs and sensitivities of the affected people”.

KSO also warned that acquisition of tribal lands in the name of any development projects, Reserved Forests, or ‘Protected Sites’ through overt or covert means or through the use of brute state force will not be entertained at any cost. Transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of any democratic government. Inclusive development which takes into consideration the needs and sensitivities of the hill peoples, as well as that, involves them in the development process is the need of the hour, it added.

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