The recently formed Joint Coordination Committee on Tribal Rights, Manipur, demanded that the "so-called overlapping villages" issue be addressed by the state government without further delay.
This committee was formed following a joint meeting "of district civil society organisation leaders of Tengnoupal, Chandel, Kangpokpi, Churachandpur and Jiribam districts in Imphal recently "on the issue of overlapping villages of the hill districts with the valley districts as per the notification of the Revenue department, Government of Manipur in October, 2022", said the committee.
The tribal committee said there are some "facts leading to the so-called overlapping villages in the hill areas that Manipur was a single district since she became Part 'C' state and then a Union territory".
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According to the committee, the administration was centralised and most particularly on settlement issues which were then carried out under the Assam Revenue Act adopted by the then administration. After attainment of statehood in 1972, more districts were created along with Autonomous District Councils in the hills, it further said. A new Act called MLR & LR Act was enacted in 1960 but the same was so strongly opposed by all hill people as it was found completely unsuitable for hill areas because of the different conditions and land tenure system altogether, the Joint Coordination Committee on Tribal Rights, Manipur added. "Instead of attempting to bring about a modified land law suitable for hill areas, the stalemate is allowed to continue by holding the same against the hill people for not accepting it," the tribal committee alleged.
Further, the Joint Coordination Committee on Tribal Rights, Manipur, said that together with the coming into existence of more districts in the hills, persistent demands were made to transfer land records to the respective hill districts to which assurances were always given.
"This would have enabled building up necessary infrastructure for taking up settlement works in the hill districts, but the government had not paid any heed to it," it also alleged. The result is that the traditional system is mostly adopted, the tribal committee also stated.
"It may also be added that the concerned valley district officers i.e. Bishenpur for Churachandpur, Kakching for Chandel and Tengnoupal, Imphal West and Imphal East for Kangpokpi are not only ignoring the request to transfer land records but now resorting to blackmailing by creating a legal myth of overlapping villages," the Joint Coordination Committee on Tribal Rights, Manipur, pointed out.
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"Unfortunately, the state government is relying on these false and misleading reports and blaming the hill people for creating irregularities and falsifying records. The reality though is that the situation had arisen purely because of non-transfer of land records to the hills districts," it further said.
According to the tribal committee, the case of "tribal hill villages" in Jiribam district which were paying hill house tax while they were a part of Imphal East subdivision and now denied after upgradation to district amounts to abrogation of tribal rights". The committee added, "It is a justified case of restoring the status quo which the government may please do so".