IMPHAL, June 20: Sharp differences between the Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and industry minister Yumkham Irabot came into open today after the latter joined hands with residents of the Naga River Colony, who were resisting a government move to acqurie their land.
Ibobi Singh initiated steps for developing the existing state owned Hotel Imphal to a luxury five-star hotel after evicting the residents from the 1.5 acre colony, existing next to the hotel in Imphal city, a move opposed by the residents.
The Chief Minister today sent an official team from the public works and settlement department to the colony at 8.30 am along with around 100 armed and unarmed police personnel to assess the properties at the colony having about 500 residents belonging to various communities.
Police accompanied the officials because the residents had thwarted an attempt by the same official team on July 6 to carry out the assessment work.
The officials and the police team could not act immediately as they found minister Irabot among the residents blocking the road leading to the colony at the entry point.
After nearly three hours of stand-off, the Chief Minister finally ordered the police to use force to evict the protestors including the minister.
The kind of relationship that the Chief Minister and his industry minister enjoy is common knowledge. But the former’s siding with residents of the colony also known as Kabo Leikai leading to today’s stand off brought to the open the differences.
“The government should protect the rights of land ownership of citizens and religious institutions. The existing land for Hotel Imphal is more than enough for a five star hotel. The move is anti-people,” Erabot Singh said. The colony falls within the minister’s constituency.
The land acquisition move continued despite opposition by the All Manipur Christian Organisation, an apex body of church bodies in Manipur to evict the residents and also the religious institutions at the area. The colony has three churches and one Hindu temple.
As the stand off continued, senior police officials both from Imphal East and Imphal West rushed to supervise the “clean up” operation and also to seek a go ahead signal from the Chief Minister.
The protestors finally dispersed after a police officer warned them that forced would be used unless they disperse immediately and went home.
Erabot did not react to the threat of use of force and remained seated calmly at a chair. “This (use of force) is not good,” he said.
The assessment work was carried out for the 30 houses on official record without any disturbance.
“The government used force. We were helpless though we want to stop eviction of the poor residents, churches and a temple for construction of a five-star hotel,” the chairman of the village authority K. Golmei said.
The vice chairman of the village authority Z. V. Wungshim said the move was dictatorial and would have serious repercussions.