It is the valley that needs protection Setting certain points clear

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Let certain points be very clear. It is an issue which should have united the indigenous people of the land, but as things have demonstrated after the State Assembly passed the three Bills on August 31 last year, it has not. On the contrary it has only driven the people apart. So deep is the division that a good number of organisations including the Naga People’s Front have come forward and opposed the Draft Bill that has been prepared in place of the one already rejected by the President of India. It is here that certain points need to be laid bare. As things stand today, the hills are already protected by the Constitution of India and leave alone the non-local people, even the valley dwellers, that is the Meiteis, cannot buy landed properties in the hill districts. It is only the valley area, which constitutes a mere 8 percent of the total geographical area of the land, which is in danger of being ‘bought over’ by non-local people. No wonder the cry for a safeguard has come from the valley area. It is this reality that needs to be acknowledged and respected. And it is here that the stand of the Naga People’s Front that the Draft Bill, if enacted, should apply only to the valley and not the hills should give food for thought to the Government. Why not pass a Bill only for the valley area ? Or is this akin to going somewhere near the demand that there be different administration for the hills and the valley ? No easy answer here and this is where a debate or a discussion may be called for.
On the other hand the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act is meant only for the valley area and does not cover the hill districts. The same yardstick may be applied while enforcing the Draft Bill. As stated above, the hill areas are already under Constitutional protection, by virtue of being a scheduled area. That leaves the valley vulnerable to the large scale influx of non-local people into the State. Even before the proposed Bill is introduced in the Assembly for discussion and ultimately passage, different voices have already emerged. While difference of opinion is healthy, the same may not be said about the legislation here, for it exposes the deep divide amongst the different communities. Not healthy. Maybe it would have been healthier if the ideas and suggestions issued to the press were first shared on an official platform. On the other hand it should be understood that the anxiety is not only about land but also about employment avenues. One reason why The Sangai Express has been staunchly advocating that the local people should stop creating the vacuum for others to come in. The land in the hill areas may be protected but what about the source of livelihood of the people ? A look at some of the district headquarters is more than enough to say that even in the hills, the non-local people, though they do not own any landed property, have literally taken over all possible vocations. This fact should not be brushed aside.

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