International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples observed
IMPHAL | Aug 9 : Students of different ethnic groups in their traditional attires today marched a rally from Meitei Mayek High School, Kongba to Standard College, Kongba to mark the observance of ‘International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.’
It was organised jointly by Socialists Students’ Union of Manipur (SSUM), Proletariat Feminists’ Movement Manipur, Socialists Women’ Association and Manipur Proletariat Peoples’ Democratic Union.
Speaking at the gathering after the rally at Standard College, SSUM president, N. Sanahal claimed that some outsiders are trying to break the bonds, which have been preserving among the different ethnic groups and communities of the state since the past, to keep the state totally under their control.
The people settling in the heart of the Imphal city are getting all the extra benefits from the government while the people living in far flung villages in both the hills and valley are not getting rightful benefits from the government and are suffering, he added.
Remote villages of the state have become mere a place for the poor, as the all the rich people from the hills and valley have shifted to Imphal city, continued the president.
The rich are the people who ‘looted’ the money of the poor and drive the society according to their will and their real ethnic groups, and their religion is ‘Huranduna Senjao Paiba’ (becoming filthy rich by stealing), alleged Sanahal.
It is time to question the rich ministers, MLAs, contractors about the source of their income. It will be wrong to claim that a person wearing white dress have a kind heart, added the president.
He said that as the political leaders have drowned in the ocean of corruption, the outsiders are slowly overtaking the state and have made the demographic of the indigenous people of the state imbalanced.
In order to save the indigenous people of the different ethnic groups of the state, we need to be united and stand firm against the corrupted leaders of the state, added Sanahal.
Chairman of Council of Higher Secondary Education, Manipur, L. Mahendra said that though each section claimed that their religion or tradition is superior; every communities should be respected as everyone belong to a single human race.
The gathering was attended by Board of Secondary Education Manipur chairman in-charge, A. Joykumar, Standard College principal, M. Kumar, All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union vice-president, K. Sarojkumar, All Manipur Students’ Guardians Organisation, Rev. Y. Renghang Chothe, The Aja Daily editor, Valley Rose Hungyo, social worker, Nasir Ahamad Seikh and MPPDU president, N. Meghachandra Meitei as presidium members.
IFP correspondent from Churachandpur added that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was observed today at Synod Hall, IB Road, Lamka, under the theme ‘Indigenous people: Right to Land.’
The programme started by 11 am and it was attended by different leaders of CVOs, led by chairman of Zomi Council, John K. Ngaihte, president of Hmar Inpui, Joseph Lalrothang and president of Mizoram People Convention (MPC), Manipur, Vanlalrinliana, while ThangbiaklianHangzo gave the introductory speech on the theme of the observation.
Chairman of Zomi Human Rights Foundation (ZHRF), SiamzadingValte gave the welcome address, followed by speech from John K, Joseph and Vanlalrinliana who spoke about the importance of protecting land owned by indigenous peoples particularly at the tribal areas of Manipur. The resources persons, R. Sanga made a speech on the topic ‘Rights of Land’ and SuanmoiGuite made a presentation on the topic ‘Against oil Exploration.’
In a press statement, secretary of Information and publicity of ZHRF has stated that “A sense of freedom cherished by most hill tribes in Manipur will be unthinkable without common property resources, especially the vast community forest lands.”
The survival of indigenous people and their cultural identity partly depends upon the ownership and control of lands long inhabited and customarily used by them. The contest over tribal land is not specific to Manipur; it is not only a national, but a global concern, it added.
It stated that the struggle has a long history which goes back to Indian Forest Act (1927) that was created by the British Raj of colonial law and still serves as the model for forest rules in northeast India, including Manipur. Initially, the colonial state had no interest in rich forests which were simply called ‘wastelands’ just because forests produced no land revenue. Later, the demand for timber persuaded the colonial state to convert forest ‘wastes’ into new ‘wealth.’ This prompted the colonial state to create ‘Reserved Forests’ for commercial exploitation of forest resources such as timber for expanding railway construction. But these forests coveted by the colonial state had always been the home of indigenous tribal people who were depended on forest resources for their living thus began the long history of conflict over forestland between the state and the tribals, the statement added.
It further stated the indigenous people of Manipur are slowly losing the legal ownership of their forestlands, but they still retain actual control over forests, and local users have some access to forest resources. To some degree, ownership of land, control of land and access to land are not as simple as one may first imagine. Both colonial and postcolonial states often resorted to environment politics to justify the alienation of tribal lands to state ownership. But a sense of ownership by local communities is important to make sure that indigenous peoples remain ‘forest stewards’ in the interest of ecological sustainability.
We are committed to support and extend solidarity to all initiatives and efforts of the indigenous peoples of northeast region to assert our right to self-determination over our land, wetlands and rivers, forests and all resources and to define our development priorities based on our needs, wishes and aspirations, stated ZHRF in the press statement.
Also, Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee (STDC), Manipur today organised a ‘World’s Indigenous Day’ observation programme on the theme of “Indigenous People’s Migration and Movement” at the headquarters of Apunba Ireipak Maheiroi Singpanglup (AIMS), Kwakeithel.
Speaking on the occasion, general secretary of STDC, Keithelakpam Bhogen highlighted the meanings of ‘Indigenous population’ and ‘Migration’ while also explaining the reasons why the Meitei community is demanding the inclusion of Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Indian Constitution. He also presented a report on the on-going issue of the demand for inclusion of Meiteis in the ST list.
Publicity secretary, W. Anand spoke on the importance of today’s observation while also describing the present conditions of the Meitei Community and the situations faced by them. He further stressed on the various problems and difficulties faced by Manipuri students in gaining admissions in outside institutions and those seeking jobs outside the state.
President of WASDEV, Tharaksana, convenor of CIRCA, Somarendra, and convenor, co-ordinating body of STDC, L. Romesh also presented speeches on the occasion.
Today’s event witnessed the attendance of working president of STDC, Naodalenkhomba, and its vice-president, colonel T.Hemo as presidium members.
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