Where did the encroachers come from ? Eviction drive of Govt

The open hint of defiance is unmistakable if one goes by what Chief Minister N Biren informed the Assembly on February 22. Just 48 hours after dwelling huts were razed to the ground inside a Protected Forest on February 20 and given the marching orders, the Chief Minister took pains to explain on the floor of the House that construction of 17 houses at K Songjang and Aimang villages started in 2021. It was on August 10 in 2022, that the Government issued a show cause notice to the two villages, but no response was forthcoming, to refer to what the Chief Minister informed the House. A reminder followed on January 30 this year and while a reply was received to the reminder, it was devoid of any merit, as the Chief Minister put it and subsequently a notice was issued to the settlers on February 10 this year to vacate the Protected  Forest within seven days. That the villagers were evicted should leave no one in doubt that the encroachers failed to vacate the land and the hence the eviction drive. This is where the open hint of defiance becomes palpable in that the encroachers stayed put despite the notice from the Government. Now is the time for the Government to take tough decisions and follow it up with equally tough action, especially when it concerns sensitive matters. If left unattended, anything may happen in the near future with larger settlements coming up and in no time it could very well turn into an ‘ancestral land’ of the encroachers. With 32 MLAs in the House of 60, the BJP is well placed to take tough decisions and the steps taken up to clear Protected and Reserved Forest should be acknowledged. It should however not mean that the task of the Government is over with just evicting the illegal encroachers. Tabs need to be kept on the displaced folks to see where they go and settle. Equally important for the Government would be to follow up and study from where the encroachers came. Did they come from any of the villages or settlements near the vicinity of the Protected Forest or did they appear out of nowhere ? This question is important for it entails so many things which may not be politically correct to spell out at the moment. The Government would certainly need to look at the whole thing from a wider perspective and see if the dots can be connected between the encroachment inside a Protected Forest and the demand for a Population Commission as well as the decision to set the base year for the ILP at 1961.
The task before the Government is huge and sensitive, especially given the fact that there are elements out there which have the propensity to give any issue a communal tinge, a point so rightly pointed out by the Rongmei Naga Students’ Organisation, Manipur, while hailing the move of the Government to evict the encroachers. Significant to note too that the Thadou Inpi, while extending its support to the Government to evict all encroachments inside Reserved and Protected Forests, pointed out that such a trend, if not checked, will become ‘bigger issues’ in the future. Manipur already knows what this ‘bigger issues’ can imply and there are examples galore to underline this point.   This is where it becomes important for the Government to verify from where the encroachers came and where they have headed after their eviction ? Is it going to be a case of a new settlement, complete with a new name and a new village chief emerging out from any of the unsettled part in the hills or is it going to be something different ? This is where it becomes important for the Government to revisit its earlier stand not to recognise the emergence of any new settlement with less than fifty households. To cite an example. Buying a new vehicle entails so many things such as getting it registered, getting the number plate and so on and if something as simple as buying a new car or bike needs these processes, the process of setting up a new settlement should be more detailed. It cannot be a case of abracadabra and presto here is a new settlement. Drive out the encroachers is the stand of The Sangai Express.