60 hrs COPTAM general strike affects normal live in hill districts

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IMPHAL, June 25(Newmai News Network): Normal activities have been affected in the hill districts of Manipur since Friday evening following the 60-hour bandh called by Committee on Protection of Tribal Areas, Manipur (COPTAM).

Since today, all the inter-state and inter-district public transports have stopped plying. Even the private vehicles are least seen along the highways. However, schools and colleges are going on as usual as they do not come under the purview of the bandh.

Till the filing of this report, the bandh is underway peacefully.

It may be recalled that on June 4, Committee on Protection of Tribal Areas Manipur (COPTAM) had threatened that if the state government fails to respond positively to its charter of demands by June 19 a drastic agitation will be launched.

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

On the issue of Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council, 4th Amendment Act, 2011 COPTAM secretary Thangkam Lupheng said that it has failed to address the core issue of giving legislative, judiciary and financial power to the Autonomous District Council without which the decentralized agency has been devoid of its 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 safeguard.

The proposed acts simply empowered the state government to control over the tribal land and natural resources, social, cultural, economic and political system, Thangkam Lupheng said, while adding that “we need development but not at the cost of our land, custom, culture and tradition.”

While decrying the forest rights acts as trampling tribal rights in the state, he stated that the term forest dwellers can not any more be appropriately applied to tribal people of Manipur because their settlement has already been recognized as settled villages paying hill house tax to the government. “Reserved and protected forest declared without the knowledge and consent of the scheduled tribe land owners may be returned to their rightful owners,” he said.

The COPTAM leader also accused the state government of manipulating census 2011 by way of deletion of tribal population and conducting overlapping census. “Double entry was officially permitted by the state government and overlapping census issue arose which was never experienced before. Overlapping of census is intentionally done by the state government with the intention to intrude tribal lands tactfully through 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 the immediate transfer of tribal land records, maintained by their “neighboring valley districts”, to their respective hill districts.

Denouncing the dual administrative authority in the border town Moreh, he said that the fact that there exist both municipalities and Autonomous District Council (ADC) have led to 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,” Mr Lupheng said.

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