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Manipur Muslims protest against BJP-led state govt’s move to evict them from their lands

By Raqib Hameed Naik, TwoCircles.net

Imphal East (Manipur): The Muslims in Manipur are angry with attempts of the BJP-led state government to evict the community members from Kshetri Bengoon Mamang Ching, Mantripukhri and adjoining areas in Imphal East district which the government claims is ‘protected’ and ‘forest’ land. The government claims that it is implementing the Manipur Conservation of Paddyland & Wetland Act 2014.

The eviction row brought Muslim community and BJP at loggerheads in the state with the All Manipur Muslim Organizations’ Coordinating Committee (AMMOCC) calling for 32-hour general strike on Tuesday, April 10. The agitation was called off on Tuesday evening after a memorandum of understanding was signed between Government of Manipur and AMMOCC.

“The Chief Minister appreciated the sentiments of the affected people and appealed to call off the agitation. Thereafter, both the parties agreed to continue the talks to find an amicable solution to the concerns of AMMOCC in three weeks and in turn the AMMOCC agreed to call off the agitation with immediate effect in public interest,” reads the memorandum signed by Dr. J. Suresh Babu, Chief Secretary and the Muslim leaders.

The Muslim body had submitted a memorandum giving an ultimatum to the Manipur Chief Minister, N Biren Singh on April 4 seeking revocation of the earlier order of the eviction. A similar memorandum was submitted earlier in February 2018 as well.

The AMMOCC have alleged government of playing a politics of displacement and derecognition with the Muslim community, often called Pangal Meiteis, a minority ethnic group in Manipur by targeting their settlements to mentally torture, intimidate, humiliate, harass and dishonor them.

“The villagers who have been residing at Kshetri Bengoon Mamang Ching since late 1960s and with most of the civic amenities or entitlements of a citizen from Manipur government have been targeted and the process of evacuation is being stayed by High Court,” AMMOCC said in a memorandum submitted to the state CM on April 4 earlier this month.

“Residents of Mantripukhri and adjoining areas have been continuously targeted and peace of mind robbed by demolishing houses constructed on certified patta land. Your government itself has been flip-flopping on the reason for such merciless actions. As per records, your government wanted the area for MLA quarters construction in 2017 and now it seems the government wants to protect the areas from non-agri usages under paddy land conservation act 2014,” the memorandum reads.

The Muslim body has also found out that as a consequence of Govt move, the houses and business establishments of Muslims living in Nagaram and adjoining areas of Khuman Lampak in Imphal West, have been intimidated and asked by the locals to vacate.

It also alleges government of intimidating Muslim community by actions of combing operation in the name of anti-drug campaign and identification of illegal immigrants allegedly harbored by Muslims in their localities.

“Pangals (Muslims) have been relegated to second citizens by your govt’s actions. All the steps that BJP government has taken up against Pangals in the past one year of rule indicate systematic stripping of Pangals’ indigenous identity,” it alleges.

According to Md Raees Ahamed, a civil society member, the government is only targeting Muslim areas and not even a single notice has been served to people from the other communities.

“As an Indian citizen, I have rights. They can’t just show up with a notice, then demolish and ask us to go away. We have spent lifelong earnings in constructing the houses,”

SM Jalal Sheikh, President AMMOCC says that the Muslim body wills resist the government move at any cost and won’t allow illegal eviction of the community members.

“Right now we are in talks with the government and within few days, the people from civil society group, elders, and religious heads will meet and decide the future course of action,” Jalal told TwoCircles.net.

During a news conference held on Tuesday by Minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution and revenue, Karam Shyam said that the government strictly abides by the laws and acts of the land and has no intention to fan communalism.

Quoting government reports, Shyam said that around 75 houses of nearly 400 villagers were built at the Kobithabi Nongmaijing Ching reserve forest area.

“Under the DFO, Central Forest Division of Manipur Forest Rule, 1971, a show-cause notice was served on March 1 to the encroachers seeking clarification on the constructions within March 14. An eviction order was issued to the encroachers on March 17, saying that encroachers should vacate the reserve forest before March 24,” he told the media persons.

He further said that the state has a proposal to construct a quarter complex for ministers, MLAs and other officials as a direct purchase under the Manipur Conservation of Paddyland and Wetland Act 2014.