KSO requested the government to reverse its “destructive policy and start a fresh proceeding to ascertain the rights of the Government and the individual rights of the tribals affected by the declaration of the Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest”.
The Kuki Students’ Orgnaisation (KSO), Churachandpur has picked up probable glitches with the Government of Manipur’s office memorandum issued on November 7, 2022 related to the declaration of Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest as a “well-defined schedule of boundaries”.
In a representation submitted to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest & HoFF, Government of Manipur, the KSO representation signed by president T Letminlien Haokip and general secretary DJ Haokip have furnished the KSO’s observation and given para-wise comments on the office memorandum. KSO said it consider the notification of 1966 regarding the declaration of Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest with “its allegedly well-defined boundaries as unacceptable, illegal and arbitrary in nature as the area covered by the said well-defined boundaries is not the property of the State Government”. While claiming that the government of Manipur “does not have any proprietary rights” over the said, the student organisation pointed out that the state government “had also not complied with the legal provisions contained in Sub-Section (3) of Section 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. It is clearly provided that “No such notification shall be made unless the nature and extent of the rights of Government and of private persons in or over the forest-land or waste-land comprised therein have been inquired into…..”.
The KSO claimed that the government had made the notification of 1966 “without conducting any inquiry as to the nature and extent of the rights of the Government and of private persons in the land covered within the boundaries of the Protected Forest. Hence, the said notification of 1966 ought to be considered illegal, arbitrary and must be recalled or cancelled”.
READ THE ENTIRE REPRESENTATION HERE: KSO Forest Comments
“It may also be reiterated here that the declaration/ notification regarding the Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest has abridged and affected the rights of the individuals and communities living in villages allegedly covered within the boundaries of the said Protected Forest. This, in fact, is also against the spirit of the legal provisions contained in the PROVISO to Sub-Section (3) of Section 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927”.
KSO further pointed out that the with regards to para No. 3 of the office memorandum, the “fact that the Forest Department, Govt. of Manipur had referred the matter to the Law Department for legal advice on the legal validity of the Orders issued by the then ASOs is a clear sign of the Department’s ignorance and unawareness of the provisions of the statute (Section 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927) which they had claimed to have complied with. Had, the Department truly and really complied with the legal provisions, there is no need to refer the matter to the Law Department”.
“The Ld. Members of the Law Department, consisting of senior advocates and legal experts are so inclined and biased towards the Forest Department that they have failed to recognise the legal loopholes committed by them”, calimed KSO. The organisation accused them of “irrationally” viewing the appointment of the Forest Settlement Officers/Asst. Settlement Officer without going into the circumstances leading to their appointment.
KSO said that on minute observation of Section 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, “it may be said here that the Government of Manipur had failed to comply with the legal provisions and had arbitrarily notified the extent of the area covered by the Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest in the 1966”.
The Law Department had also turned “a blind eye to the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, where, under Sub-Section (1) of Section 29, it is clearly stated that- (1) The State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare the provisions of this Chapter applicable to any forest-land or waste-land which, is not included in a reserved forest but which is the property of Government, or over which the Government has proprietary rights, or to the whole or any part of the forest produce of which the Government is entitled”, said KSO.
The student organisation said the notification of 1966 declaring the extent of the boundaries of the Churachandpur- Khoupum Protected Forest was “arbitrarily done since the declaration had covered vast individual village land which is owned by the village chief or the villagers since eons ago. The Village Chiefs could also produce documents dating back to 1918 signed and issued by the President, Manipur Durbar”.
“Para No. 5 of the said Office Memorandum is the consequence of the above mentioned State Cabinet’s decision whereby Orders for settlement within the alleged boundaries of the Churachandpur- Khoupum Protected Forest held by 38 bonafide villages were cancelled with immediate effect. This is the final nail to the coffin and it will go down in the History of the Tribals of Manipur as the day the Government had finally uprooted them from their traditional habitat”, said KSO.
The organisation has requested the authorities to reverse its “destructive policy and start a fresh proceeding to ascertain the rights of the Government and the individual rights of the Tribals affected by the declaration of the Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest in the interest of Justice, Reason and Human Dignity”.