Amid the buzz of the widening rift in the BJP Manipur unit, one of the political allies of Manipur's BJP, the Kuki People's Alliance (KPA), has made a veiled attack on the Biren Singh-led government on various issues and accused the government of persecuting the tribal people in the state.
The KPA in its official meeting held on Tuesday discussed the issue of the demolition of over a half-century-old church at tribal colony in Checkon, Imphal, forests vis-a-vis the tribal communities living in the hills, environment, and the recent impasse over tribal reservation issue at RIMS.
In connection with the demolition of the Church at Checkon, the KPA stated that in Manipur, Christianity is nearly all exclusive to the tribals in the hills, despite constituting almost 50 per cent of the population of Manipur, but have only 33 per cent political representation.
It also stated that the recent demolition of church in the wee hours of April 11 was a corollary to the demolition of the Tribal Colony itself.
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The Tribal colony was envisaged in the late 50s to accommodate the lowest of the lowest rungs of government employees, even among the ST category and the quarters consisted mainly of Type-1 accommodation.
It was meant to mitigate the problems of accommodation faced by the hill people who took up employment with the government and did not have their own residences in Imphal.
The portion of the land was demarcated and gifted from the Maharaja's estate for the purpose of quarters for the Scheduled Tribe government employees.
The stone inscription at the site of the Tribal colony at Checkon clearly stated, "This land is given by the Maharaja of Manipur for construction of Government quarters for the ST government employees".
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"What we see with the present Government is nothing but elitism, arrogance, the chauvinism of a particular community, majoritarian dominance, and to whom any benefit to ST communities in the form of allocated quarters or places of Christian worship is an eyesore", the KPA stated.
It further stated that the Tribal Colony has been demolished and in its place is being constructed a colony for the elite of the govt employees, leaving in the lurch the lowest paid employees who will now have to fend for themselves while adding that there is no longer any Type I or Type II quarters, the very category for whom the land was allocated from the Maharaja's estate.
"Evidently, it was never a government land", the KPA asserted.
It also alleged that the Manipur government is sectarian in religious and social outlook, anti-tribal, anti-poor, and anti-hills is well demonstrated.
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On forest issues, the KPA stated that another area of discord is the present governmenet activity with regard to Forests vis-a-vis the tribal communities living in the hills.
The Forest-related statutes (The Forest Act of India 1927 and its consequent Orders and notifications) presuppose and acknowledge the existence of individuals and communities already living on the land and that their rights were not to be abridged.
It, therefore, makes it incumbent on the part of the government to demarcate the settlements and their area of socio-economic activity for the purpose of excluding them from the proposed Reserved Forests/Protected Forests (RF/PF).
Therefore, it is only after the demarcation of the existing settlements that the existence of the RF/PF ipso facto became a reality. It goes without saying that without demarcation and exclusion of the settlements, the RF/PF themselves will resultantly be without demarcation and thereby rendered non-existent.
The onus is on the govt department to verify the existence of the forest residents. The onus is not on the residents to prove their existence. It is therefore a grave irony that the villagers are made to produce pattas and jamabandis, etc. and even when in some instances they do possess such documents, such documents are ordered for annulment and cancellation thereby rendering old established communities as encroachers on govt. land, it added.
In connection with the environmental issue, the KPA stated that it is on all fours with the drive for the conservation and protection of Forests and wildlife.
"But it is a sad day when the issue is politicized and used to criminalize a particular community", it asserted.
Over the recent reservation issue, the KPA opined that the brazen flouting of constitutionally mandated quota reservations in Govt. jobs for Tribal is another issue that seems to have the tacit approval if not the direct complicity of the government for a population that has a 50% Tribal component, the reservation quota for STs is pegged at 30-35 % and statistics show only a 20% employment ratio for tribals in Govt. jobs.
In fact, there is a converse job reservation of 65-70% for the Meeteis because even the meritorious Tribal candidates (those in the merit list) are counted in the reserved category, it added.
It also maintained that over and above these manipulations, reservation quotas are blatantly ignored as in the recent RIMS case and against which ATSUM has taken up cudgels and agitations.
The KPA then shared the standpoint of ATSUM on the issue as being well justified and one that must be rectified.