(Contd from previous issue)
Both the Nagas and the Kukis would quote paragraphs from the above book to prove the other was the subject of Meitei King.
The boundary was demarcated in the name of the Kingdom and additional territory was allotted in the name of the Maharaja. For example, in 1933, the Governor General communicated to Gambhir Singh “with regards to the two ranges of hills,.. We will give up all claims on the part of the Honourable Company thereunto, and we will make these hills over in possession to the Rajah, and give him the line of Jeeree and the Western bank of Barak as a boundary, provided that the Rajah agrees to the whole of what is written to this paper”.
In 1905, the boundary papers of the tribal villages were issued by the Political Agent, J Shakespeare in the name of the Maharaja of Manipur which indicated that the land belonged to the Kingdom.
The normal procedure of setting up villages in the hill districts with the permission of the Maharaja or the Political Agent also confirmed that the land belonged to the Kingdom/ State. The villages which were set up without any permission may not be aware of the procedure or didn’t want to make any effort for it.
Since, the permission had been given by the State to set up the villages; the villagers are now the owners of all the land occupied by the villages and the land under various methods of cultivation, including the village forest.
On the other hand, all the vacant lands not occupied by the villages and not the property of anyone should be the property of the State Government. However, the tribals claim that all the land belongs to them and there is no vacant or Khas land in the hill districts.
Therefore, in order to ensure the preservation of the unique culture and traditions of all ethnic communities and prevent any violence, it would be prudent for an independent “Land Commission” to examine in totality the following:
The land area, including forest area required in the hill districts for the long term sustenance of livelihood of the STs. The process of the survey of land, preparation of land record, allotment of land to the actual tiller, the land ceiling etc.
The Government land in the hill districts occupied by the existing infrastructures, offices, hospitals, schools, various types of forest, wildlife sanctuary etc. and the land required for the future expansion of the above infrastructures.
Vacant Government land available in the hill districts for allotment to the other non-ST indigenous people of the State for setting up residential areas, industries, commercial areas, private educational institutes and health facilities, hospitality industry, tourism etc.
Any other vacant land, including non-arable and barren areas in the hill districts which can be used by the non-ST indigenous people for the above facilities.
Manipur has Adequate Land for Every Tribe and Ethnic Communities
The STs should naturally get the first priority and the requirement of land for the non-ST indigenous people in the hill districts should only be considered after meeting 100% land requirement for the long term sustenance of livelihood of the STs and the land for the future expansion of the existing infrastructure.
The area of the hill districts of Manipur is 20,089 km2 whereas the total area of Nagaland is only 16,579 km2. As per the father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi “Earth provides enough to satisfy man’s needs but not man’s greed.” Manipur has adequate land for everyone; and every tribe and ethnic community can preserve their unique culture if the land is used optimally.
Autonomous District Council (ADC) and Inclusion in the Sixth Schedule
The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act was passed by the Parliament in1971; and amended by the State in 2000, 2006 and 2008. The ADCs of Manipur don’t have the legislative and judicial powers like the councils under the Sixth Schedule. The ADCs are not authorized to raise resources on its own. No separate budget has been allotted to the ADC and completely dependent on the State Government for their survival.
The Hill Area Committee (HAC) of Manipur passed a resolution in 1974 recommending the replacement of the District Council by the Sixth Schedule and re-affirmed its resolution in 1983, 1990 and 2002. The State Cabinet recommended it to the Central Government in 1991, 1992 and 2001. The Government of India has notified the Manipur State Government to furnish details of the “local adjustments” and “amendments” required for inclusion in the Sixth Schedule.
Local adjustments and amendments are essential for the survival and the preservation of cultural identities of all the ethnic groups in Manipur; and it would be impossible if 90% of the geographical areas of the State are placed under the administrative control of the Sixth Schedule without any local adjustments.
It would be naïve to expect that the tribals would accept any “local adjustments” and “amendments” recommended by the State Government in view of the claim for the entire hill districts. In order to resolve highly intricate, important and urgent issues, it would be prudent for an impartial “Land Commission” to examine the “local adjustments” and “amendments” before the extension of the Sixth Schedule.
It is critically essential that an independent “Land Commission” headed by a retired Supreme/High Court Judge with experts in the various fields such as tribal land rights, various methods of cultivation, environment and forest, planning, members of all ethnic communities of Manipur etc. is constituted to examine in totality all the above aspects of the land problem and recommend remedial measures before the extension of the Sixth Schedule or formation of any exclusive administrative areas in the State.
All the ethnic communities should get the land as per their legitimate right irrespective of the might of their underground outfits without any violence. All indigenous tribes and communities in the state should also get the best opportunity to preserve their unique cultural identities.
Once the ordinary Nagas and Kukis have the individual land documents; they will get freedom from exploitation. It would also empower the STs to think without the fear of land alienation about accelerating development, gender equality, selecting the best form of self-governance at the village level, traditional or the modern democracy at the grass root level, the Sixth Schedule or the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 or PESA etc.
The writer is a retired Captain, NM, Indian Navy. He can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed here are solely that of the writer and do not reflect the views of TSE in any way-Editor