Imphal, Mar 3: Committee on Protection of Tribal Areas, Manipur (CoPTAM) has expressed its objection to the Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Second Amendment Ordinance, 2010, through a representation to the chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh today. Giving March 15 as the deadline for the government to response positively to all its demands, it has threatened to resume agitation otherwise.
“CoPTAM has taken a strong exception to the attempt at introducing ‘Manipur (village authorities in hill areas) second amendment ordinance, 2010’ on August 25 2010,” it said adding that “it is an attempt to systematically loot tribal ancestral land, posing direct threat to the existence of the age-old traditional chieftainship institution.”
It further expressed suspicion in the intention of the government in bypassing Hill Area Committee (HAC) and attempting to bulldoze through with the ordinance. “Such matter of public issues related to tribal and the hill matter was not routed through the HAC as mandated by clause 4 of the HAC order, 1972. It is also against the second schedule of HAC order, 1972, which specifically mentioned about establishment of village council, village administration, and appointment or succession of chief or headman.”
The ordinance replaced village authority with village council which completely ignored the traditional and customary practices of tribal, the role of the chief in village administration and deleted the importance of the village authority court in the justice administration at the grass root level, it contended.
Highlighting the existence of two unique system of land ownership among the tribals in Manipur, viz. community ownership and that owned by hereditary chiefs, CoPTAM said that the ordinance directly challenges the very existence of chieftainship which is a recognized traditional institution existing way before the colonial period.
The ordinance is also silent on the fate of the chiefs, village administration and management of tribal land, it said.
It went on to say that, unlike olden days, the village authority of today has become more democratic in nature since elections to village authority were conducted by the government on the basis of adult franchise for a specified terms with the chiefs as ex-officio chairman. The bringing together of the two systems has not undermined the democratic process of administration.
While the existing Autonomous District Councils (ADC-third amendment) Act, 2008, under the provision of 5th scheduled of the Indian Constitution was not a Parliamentary Act, and HAC has been kept a toothless institution, the memorandum iterated, adding that the attempt to abolish chieftainship in tribal areas of Manipur is too premature.
Until and unless constitutional safeguard—at least under the sixth schedule—is extended to the tribal areas and the chiefs are adequately compensated, such attempt to abolish chieftainship will be too premature, it reasoned.
This being an accumulation to the previous tribal grievances which include, inter alia, district boundary, transfer of land records, Moreh status, proposed Jiribam district, census etc, CoPTAM has pledged to oppose “tooth and nail” all such anti-tribal designs of the Secular Progressive Front government until favorable and amicable solution is reached in all of its demands.
Unless the government response positively before March 15, 2011, CoPTAM will be compelled to resume its agitation, it said.