BJP ally KPA alleges Biren Govt of persecuting tribals

TMB Correspondent

Kangpokpi: Amid the buzz of widening rift in the State BJP unit, one of the political allies of BJP Manipur, the Kuki People’s Alliance (KPA) made a veiled attack on the Biren Singh-led BJP Government on various issues.

KPA also accused the Biren-led Government of persecuting the tribal people in the State.

The KPA in its official meeting held on Tuesday discussed the issue of the demolition of over a half-century-old church on the Tribal colony land at Checkon in the heart of Imphal city, forests vis-a-vis the tribal communities living in the hills, environment, and the recent impasse over tribal reservation issue at RIMS.

In connection with the demolition of the church, the KPA stated that in Manipur, Christianity is nearly all exclusive to the tribals in the hills, despite constituting almost 50 percent of the population of Manipur, but have only 33 percent political representation. 

It stated that the recent demolition, in the wee hours of April 11 of the over half a century old church was a corollary to the demolition of the Tribal colony itself. 

Ill-conceived and motivated by a majoritarian exclusivism, both the actions run counter to principles enunciated in the constitution itself, the principles of accommodation towards, reservation for, and efforts towards upliftment of the weaker sections of society, it added.

The Tribal colony was envisaged in the late 50s to accommodate the lowest of the lowest rungs of Govt. employees, even among the ST category. That the quarters consisted mainly of Type-1 accommodation is self-explanatory and illustrates the intent and magnanimity of the Manipur Government then. It was meant to mitigate the problems of accommodation faced by the Hill people who took up employment with the government at the lowest of salaries and did not have their own residences in Imphal. The portion of the land was demarcated from the Maharaja’s estate for the purpose of “quarters for the lowest rung of the Scheduled Tribe Government Employees”. The gesture was in tune with the very spirit of the Constitution, the efforts towards welfare and upliftment of the weakest of the weak, it stated.

The stone inscription at the site of the Tribal colony at Checkon clearly states, “This land is given by the Maharaja of Manipur for construction of Government quarters for the Scheduled Tribe Government employees.”

One point that lent credence to the above inference is that even after the merger, the Maharaja still had immense personal properties including vast landed estates. The spread of wetlands outside the palace gates, also known as Konung Mamang, was royal property. It covers the land on which the tribal colony stood.

“What we see with the present Government is nothing but elitism, arrogance, the chauvinism of a particular community, majoritarian dominance, and to whom any benefit to Scheduled Tribe Communities in the form of allocated quarters or places of Christian Worship is an eyesore,” KPA stated.

It further stated that the Tribal Colony has been demolished and in its place is being constructed a colony for the elite of the Govt. employees, leaving in the lurch the lowest paid employees who will now have to fend for themselves while adding that there is no longer any Type I or Type II quarters, the very category for whom the land was allocated from the Maharaja’s estate. “Evidently, It was never a Government land”, it asserted.

The KPA stated that a portion of the same land on which a Christian church was built is now claimed, after 60 years, as being Government land and demolished overnight. It could have easily been regularised. Sixty years is enough to invoke the rule of tacit acquiescence; of adverse possession; or of naturalization of an event. Even in nature, it is an accepted environmental norm that 60 years is what it takes for nature to adapt itself to change, it added.

It also alleged that the State Government is sectarian in religious and social outlook, anti-Tribal, anti-poor and anti-hills is well demonstrated.

It also stated that the present proposed quarters when it comes up will be a standing manifestation of the Imphal Government’s apathy towards the poor and deprived sections.

On forest issues, the KPA stated that another area of discord is the present Govt. activity with regard to Forests vis-a-vis the tribal communities living in the hills.

The Forest-related statutes (The Forest Act of India 1927 and its consequent Orders and notifications) presuppose and acknowledge the existence of individuals and communities already living on the land and that their rights were not to be abridged. It therefore makes it incumbent on the part of the government to demarcate the settlements and their area of socio-economic activity for the purpose of excluding them from the proposed Reserved Forests/Protected Forests (RF/PF). 

Therefore, it is only after the demarcation of the existing settlements that the existence of the RF/PF ipso facto becomes a reality. It goes without saying that without demarcation and exclusion of the settlements, the RF/PF themselves will resultantly be without demarcation and thereby rendered non-existent. The onus is on the govt department to verify the existence of the forest residents. The onus is not on the residents to prove their existence. It is therefore a grave irony that the villagers are made to produce pattas and jamabandis, etc. and even when in some instances they do possess such documents, such documents are ordered for annulment and cancellation thereby rendering old established communities as encroachers on govt. land, it added.

“It is clearly a case where the law has been turned on its head to suit the designs of a Govt. that has become alien to its people,” it further added.

In connection with the environmental issue, the KPA stated that it is on all fours with the drive for the conservation and protection of Forests and wildlife.

KPA is steadfast on the principle that poppy cultivation and drug trade are not only illegal but a scourge on the environment, and a threat to the well-being of society. It must be eradicated and there should be no question about it, it added.

“But it is a sad day when the issue is politicized and used to criminalize a particular community,” it maintained.

Over the recent reservation issue, the KPA opined that the brazen flouting of constitutionally mandated quota reservations in Govt jobs for Tribal is another issue that seems to have the tacit approval if not the direct complicity of the Imphal Government for a population that has a 50 percent tribal component, the reservation quota for STs is pegged at 30-35 percent and statistics show only a 20 percent employment ratio for tribals in Govt jobs.

In fact, there is a converse job reservation of 65-70 percent for the Meeteis because even the meritorious Tribal candidates (those in the merit list) are counted in the reserved category, it added.

It also maintained that over and above these manipulations, reservation quotas are blatantly ignored as in the recent RIMS case and against which ATSUM has taken up cudgels and agitations.

KPA then shared the view and standpoint of ATSUM on the issue as being well justified and one that must be rectified.

KPA is a newly formed Indian state-level political party in Manipur recognised by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

It won two seats from 46-Saikul Assembly Constituency and 60-Singhat Assembly Constituency in the 2022 Manipur Legislative Assembly election and pledged support to the BJP in Manipur with its two lawmakers, Kimneo Haokip Hangshing, the youngest legislator in Manipur and Chinlunthang from Singhat AC and become an ally of BJP in its government.

The Kuki People’s Alliance was formed with the objective of creating a platform for the people to express and promote our national ideology, protect the Kuki national identity and preserve its national heritage. It is also committed to striving for the welfare of the Hill people, for the integrity of the people and their lands, their sustainable development, strengthening fraternity and for peaceful and harmonious existence.