“Poverty within our lands due to the neglect of the state government has led certain sections of our population to cultivate poppy to meet their daily bread,” said Twilang Area Kuki Chief Association and CSOs.
Twilang Area Kuki Chief Association and CSOs have displayed their power in front of the Deputy Commissioner Kangpokpi and forced her to come out of her office chamber and collect a memorandum addressed to the Manipur chief minister. Hundreds of villagers from 35 localities in Twilang converged at “Mi aam gi Numit” at Tujangvaichong Sub-Division HQ, Kangpokpi District on February 24, with placards and banners to hand over the memorandum.
A video of the incident was shared by Thangkholim Kipgen @MrThangkholim on YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T35pktRv2i8&t=204s.
Twilang Area Kuki Chief Association Chairman Lhunkhohen Kipgen was seen holding the memorandum and asking the Deputy Commissioner to come out and listen to their grievances directly.
District officials were heard asking the Lhunkhohen to go inside and meet the DC directly in her office chamber. However, the chairman insisted that she should have no hesitation in meeting aggrieved people as she accepted to represent the chief minister on “Miyam gi Nummit.”
The chairman said the villagers will not leave the office until she receives the memorandum in front of them. The DC came out and collected the memorandum after the chairman said, with a relatively angry tone, not to force them to change the situation.
The memorandum has criticised the government for crackdown on poppy plantations and the arrest of village chiefs. It alleged that the Kuki traditional system of governance and livelihood has been subjugated and subdued by the government. “Poverty within our lands due to the neglect of the state government has led certain sections of our population to cultivate poppy to meet their daily bread,” it said.
“While we do not support such cultivation, we condemn the approach of the government for neglecting the livelihood means of the farmers while in-compassionately arresting the concerned village chiefs. It is the steadfastness of the arrested village chiefs who willingly take the blame for their fellow villagers,” it added.
The memorandum maintained that the forest, land, rivers and trees and rocks and fishes have always been looked after and controlled and sustainably utilised by the villagers under the administration of their village chiefs.
It claimed that the Indian constitution has honoured this virtue of the Kuki Chiefs by granting the Tribal population safeguards to their land and security by enacting Article 371 (c) and by keeping the Hill areas outside the purview of the MLR and LR Act. While the Kuki chiefs have been the sole protector of most forests within Manipur, the clandestine act of the government in declaring many areas as reserved and protected forest without any system of settlement goes against the Constitutional privileges of a Kuki chief and this is highly condemnable, it added.
The memorandum underscored the need to revive the constitutionally enshrined local system of governance in the form of Autonomous District Council, which has been kept unfunctional for the past two years.
It accused the government of appeasement by rewarding certain law-abiding communities and discriminatory punishing of the other communities across communal lines. “The law appears to have taken a discriminatory role where equality before law is absent,” it said.
In the memorandum, villagers urged the state government to respect and honour Culture and Tradition of Kuki as has been done in the Indian Constitution. The traditional system of settlement and progress of the Kuki population within their lands must be respected and upheld. We condemn being Labeled encroachers and foreigners in our own lands.
They demand a non-discriminatory system of both reward and punishment. “Govt priorities should not be along communal lines,” it said.
They also demanded the government provide alternative means as they have abided with the govt policy of poppy destruction. They also demanded a government structured minimum support price for our agriculture and horticulture Products, cold storage for our perishable goods, transportation to market our produce and food processing unit to export our products.
They also demanded immediate release of Henkholen and Paokhomang David of Selsi Village unconditionally. “They have been arrested for the poppy plantation, which was destroyed,” said the memorandum.
The memorandum was signed by Twilang Area Kuki Chief Association Chairman Lhunkhohen Kipgen Kuki Inpi Twilang Lhang president Jangkhohao Chongal, Kuki Student Organisation, Twilang Block president Lhunminien Enock Kipgen, President and Kuki women Union Twilang Area Chairperson Themnelhol Hangshing.