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CoPTAM to intensify agitation on 'tribal rights'
Source: Hueiyen News Service / Newmai News Network

Imphal, June 04 2011: Committee on Protection of Tribal Areas Manipur (CoPTAM) has said if the state government fails to respond positively to its charter of demands by June 19 an intensive agitation will be launched.

"CoPTAM will be compelled to launch intensive agitations if the state government fails to bring an amicable solution to our genuine demands on or before June 19, 2011," stated general secretary Thangkam Lupheng today before the media.

CoPTAM has been demanding a charter of demands on the rectification of the state government's policies on tribal rights which includes, inter alia, forest rights, census issues, district boundaries, land records, village authority and district council amendment acts, etc.

On the issue of Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council, 4th Amendment Act, 2011 Lupheng said that it has failed to address the core issue of giving legislative, judiciary and financial powers to the Autonomous District Council without which the decentralized agency is devoid of true autonomy.

The Proposed Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas), 2nd Amendment Act, 2011, poses a direct threat to the existing traditional tribal chieftainship institution and tribal rights over their lands, he added, saying it is premature to abolish the institution without first providing constitutional safeguards.

The proposed Act simply empowers the state government to control tribal land and natural resources, and the tribal social, cultural, economic and political system, he said, adding that "we need development but not at the cost of our land, custom, culture and tradition" .

Decrying the Forest Right Act as trampling tribal rights, he stated that the term forest dwellers cannot be appropriately applied to the tribal people of Manipur because their settlements have already been recognized as settled villages paying 'hill house tax' to the government.

He said, "Reserved and protected forests should be returned to their rightful owners" .

The general secretary of CoPTAM accused the state government of manipulating Census 2011 saying that "double entry was officially initiated by the state government and overlapping census issues arose which had been never experienced before.

Overlapping of census is intentionally done by the state government with the intention to intrude tribal lands tactfully through a census," he said.

The imposition of a fixed decadal growth of tribals in Manipur by the state government and subsequent steps taken by district administrations to reduce the population by deleting some people from census records is another facet of the government's anti tribal policy, he added.

"The government should immediately re-enter those deleted persons in the census record so that no one is left out in the current census operation 2011" .

CoPTAM has also demanded for immediate transfer of tribal land records, maintained by their "neighbouring valley districts", to their respective hill districts.

Denouncing the dual administrative authority in Moreh, he said that the fact that because municipalities and ADC both exist has led to an overlapping administration.

"This is an unhealthy practice which needs to be discontinued immediately as 80 percent of the people of the area are indigenous tribals who have owned and managed the land according to their customs for ages" .

On the possibility for the creation of Jiribam into a full fledged district Lupheng said that Jiribam is originally part and parcel of a hill district and therefore it should remain so even if the government decides to upgrade the area into a full-fledged district.

If the state government refuses to acknowledge the demands of CoPTAM and fails to bring an amicable solution by June 19, it will be compelled to launch an intensive agitation, Lupheng said.

He has appealed to the Hill Area Committee members to do their part within the given timeframe otherwise the organization shall view it as a serious breach of trust.


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