Updated 5 Jun 2022, 4:50 pm
At least eight persons, including three women and an 80-year-old village chief, of Nongmaipal village in Kangpokpi district were detained on Sunday following a scuffle at Nongmaipal village under the Island block.
The scuffle reportedly occurred after a standoff went wild between a large number of people along with the official of Forest Department and the police who went for a tree plantation drive at Nongmaiching Reserve Forest with the local populace of Langmaiching area.
A tree plantation drive was organized by the Central Forest Division, Forest Department, and the state government under a people's participatory initiative plantation drive which kicked off on Sunday to culminate on June 15 at Nongmaiching Reserve Forest and Khamenlok Gwaltabi Reserve Forest.
According to Nongmaipal's villagers, hundreds of people, along with forest officials and the police, arrived at the village at around 8 am for the plantation drive and the local populace confronted them as they were not informed nor consulted about the plantation drive.
"We told the DFO and those coming for the plantation drive that we are not against the plantation drive but we are against planting saplings without the knowledge and consent of the village chiefs while conveying our willingness to carry out the drive jointly with the participation of the local populace after due consultation with the village chiefs of the area," one of the villagers said.
The DFO then requested us to go ahead with the plantation with their participation as today is the world's environment day, he added.
He said that considering the appeal of the DFO and the importance of the World Environment Day they decided to carry out the plantation drive despite it being a Sunday, which is also a significant Pentecost Day for the Christian community.
However, a stand-off ensued when a banner inscribed with "Reserve Forest" was hung up at the plantation site by the participants, he added.
He said that the DFO then agreed to remove the banner and continue the plantation drive but those people coming from the valley for the plantation drive started using abusive and derogatory words which turned the stand-off between the two parties wild. Some of the locals pulled down the banner out of anger and the scuffle broke out which lasted till noon.
It was also reported that many of them, from both sides, got minor injuries during the scuffle.
The plantation drive was carried out reportedly after the huge plantation drive goers outnumbered the local populace.
Expressing disappointment over the incident, one of the villagers said that today is an important occasion for us as a Christian community as Pentecost Day falls today, but the government's ugly policy of grabbing tribal lands in the name of Reserve Forest descended into an unpleasant situation on our auspicious day.
"On Pentecost day, as we believed, the Holy Spirit of God descended on us to dwell with its blessings but, unfortunately, today the sinister spirit of the government descended on us with adversity and tribulation", the irked villager added.
The villagers also questioned the motive of the plantation drive goers as to why they created such an unpleasant situation when the DFO put humble efforts and initiative to solve the problem amicably.
They also appealed to the state government to release the detained villagers including the aged village chief of Nongmaipal without any condition to strengthen the faith of the people.
First published:5 Jun 2022, 4:50 pm
KANGPOKPI district, Manipur