The Ahangruak Chief and Chairman Association (ACCA) has accused “some self-styled Nepali leaders” of playing with fire and trying to flare up communal tension in Thonglang areas.
In a statement on Friday, the ACCA said, “As law-abiding citizens of this country, we have patiently anticipated with faith in the state machinery for equitable justice... However, the concerted entreaty of the indigenous people is landing on deaf ears of the government”.
According to the ACCA, some “fringe elements” have obstructed the “righteous” efforts of Thonglang Atongba villagers to preserve and protect their historical sites and monuments. It also stated that they have constrained and misled district administration to remove the name-boards of these historically significant sites and monuments.
The statement then said, “Whereas, Thonglang Atongba village is a Scheduled Tribe village which is recognised by the Government of India and Government of Manipur. And whereas, the land belonging to Scheduled Tribe (ST) in the hill areas comes under scheduled -I of Article 371 (C) of the Indian Constitution and it is administered as per the Village Authority Act of 1956”. Furthermore, the land under schedule I is not transferable to any outsider, the statement also said.
“Therefore, the preceding governments have never acquired or allotted any land to the Nepali grazers, except by way of granting permission for grazing purpose. They were permitted by the government to stay as tenants for grazing purposes only”.
The ACCA added that the “Nepali grazers” have been paying grazing tax to the Government and Rampon (Lousal in Manipuri; a rent for the use of land) to the traditional land owners of the village till date.
The ACCA then said that Nepalese who came to Manipur state sometime in the third decade of the 20th century were ordered to move to Thonglang areas by the then political agents to rear cattle. Since then, they have been settling in region as tenants and paying "Rampon" (Lousal) regularly, the ACCA said.
“The immutable accepted norms, in the form of declarations, Act of undertakings, agreements and assurance by the tenants/occupiers that, they shall adhere to and abide by the customary laws and practices of the land and its owners is pertinent,” the ACCA further added.
According to the association, the boundaries between Thonglang and other Liangmai villages are well defined and distinctively demarcated by hills, ridges, rivers, streams, enduring landmarks and historical monuments with distinctive names and meanings, symbolising traditional beliefs, myths and legacies with strong emotional and religious attachments.
It also said that there is no "No man's land" in any Liangmai land. The land either is owned by a family, clan/clans or belong to the whole village called "Namram" (village land), the ACCA added. “Each monument within our village jurisdiction and boundary is of great historical significance to us and they are our history, identity and pride,” the Association further said.
It then said that while the state itself is fighting illegal influx, encroachment, settlement and renaming of age-old lands and monuments, the “indigenous people of Thonglang and Tapon areas strongly urge the state government and its officials to stop taking undue advantage of our guileless nature for vested interest and protection of outsiders at the cost of the indigenous tribal population”.
The “naive attitude” of the government will only impinge both the state and the indigenous population, the ACCA added.
The ACCA then said that the hill indigenous people of Thonglang and Tapon areas have been facing nightmares of being ruled by alien people who has no understanding of their traditions, customs and culture, which had resulted owing to the mistake by allowing the Nepalese to contest in the ADC elections which has been exclusively set up for the “hill tribal people” to protect their land, property, customs, traditions, culture and their identity.