Mao Council rejects TPO verdict

By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, Jan 3: The Mao Council has rejected the verdict passed by the Tenyimi People's Organisation (TPO) through its board of directors on December 19, 2022 regarding the land dispute over Koziirii and Dziiko.
Giving a host of reasons for rejecting the verdict, the Mao Council said that the TPO did not accommodate its request for holding the meeting at a neutral venue. The TPO went ahead with the notified December 19, 2022 joint meeting under the cloud of SAPO’s ban.
The verdict was declared in the absence of the contending parties and in the vitiated atmosphere of SAPO’s direct defiance of the TPO’s notification for the December 19, 2022 joint meeting of the TPO presidential council and BOA.
Saying that the verdict was declared when the Mao people were under ban from travelling through SAPO area, the Mao Council asserted that the meeting should have been deferred to a time when normalcy was restored.
It then questioned how a verdict for resolution of a dispute be declared when one of the party to the dispute is banned by another party.    
The fact that the official signed copy of the verdict has not been handed over to the Mao Council suggests that the TPO/BOA has relinquished the responsibility and minimum courtesy of ensuring the receipt of the official verdict, read a statement issued by the Mao Council.
Misspelling Mao as “Moa” on page 2 and page 25, whether it is a typographical mistake or intentional, is certainly disrespectful to the Mao people. This indicates carelessness, lack of seriousness and insensitivity, it said.
It also gave point by point rebuttal of some of the observations made in the verdict.
(a) “Page 21 of the TPO/BOA verdict states that “None of the parties have produced any documentary evidence to substantiate their claim over Kezoltsa/Koziirii/Kazing forest. In fact, all the three parties are claiming the disputed forest only based on oral testimony.
Rebuttal: There is already a 1933 decree of the Manipur Darbar, settling the boundary between Maram Khullen and Mao people (largely Mao Pungdong village) which was reaffirmed by the parties in the year 1995 and honoured by both parties. The relative documents are in the possession of the TPO/BOA.
This boundary between Maram Khullen and Mao Pungdong with stone markers was pointed out to the TPO and the BOA during the field visit on November 19, 2018 in the presence of the Maram Khullen representatives, who stated that south of the boundary is Maram Khullen land, while north of the boundary belongs to Mao Pungdong.
It then asked how the verdict ignored this clinching evidence endorsed by both parties present in front of the TPO and BOA officials.
“What more documentary evidence or proof is required in this regard ?” the Mao Council asked.
Page 23 of the TPO/BOA verdict states “None have indicated the total area of land claimed by them over Kezolta/Koziirii/Kazing forest. Hence, according to the BOA all claimants are not sure of the total area of land claimed by each of them.”
Rebuttal : In the common issues/questionnaires in the land dispute over Koziirii to be answered by the contending parties, framed by the TPO/BOA, Question No 6 was “What is the approximate area of forest cover claimed by you ?”
Mao Council responded to the query with the following facts - Total area of Koziirii = 32.29 sq kms, Mao Dziiko = 11.28 sq km.
Further, in the map submitted to the TPO/BOA by the Mao Council, Koziirii forest has been clearly indicated as the encroached area and indicated on the right side margin of the map as measuring 32.29 sq km
The above observation made in the TPO/BOA verdict is therefore incorrect. It reflects lack of thorough study and examination of the statements made by the Mao Council in response to the TPO/BOA’s questionnaires and also on the materials/documents submitted to them, it said.
A significant observation in the written submissions made by SAPO was on the massive logging by Mao individuals in the Koziirii area during 1992-95 and also construction of road to the Isii foothills during 1996-2000 unchallenged and without disturbance from any quarter.
To this, SAPO in their additional statement dated 26/07/2016 on page 2 stated that “SAPO had never relinquished its ownership and possession of Kezoltsa, the massive logging during 1992-95 and construction of roads in 1996-2000 as claimed by Mao Council is a clear case of stealing and encroachment’’.
“If the SAPO is the real owner of Koziirii forest why did they not object or resist against such activities at the material time period of several years ? This is not a fresh argument. This particular point is within contemporary memory and in official records but has not been given primacy or noted duly in the Verdict of the 19/12/2022 of the TPO/BOA”, the Mao Council asserted.
The statement of the SAPO is ample proof that SAPO had encroached into Koziirii much after the massive logging of 1992-95 and the construction of road in 1996-2000 in Koziirii area from the Mao side openly and freely. The encroachment first took place in 2000 when one Daniel of Viswema started construction of a rest house construction and second, the incursion into Koziirii in 2014 with heavy machinery and armed guards, it said.
After all the narrations in the position paper, rejoinders, additional statements, field visits and illustrations on map, it is difficult to understand how the verdict of the TPO/BOA of December 19, 2022 was declared in its very form and substance at the end of the 7 years long arbitration process, professedly based on customary law and practice of the Nagas (Tenyimis), it remarked.
“As Tenyimis, as a party to the dispute being arbitrated on the basis of customary laws and practices of Tenyimis, the Mao Council is therefore under no obligation to abide by the verdict, that has been arrived without the basis of Naga (Tenyimi) customary law and practices”, it added.