Haraothel: a one-sided affair
The state government needs to revisit its decision to rename the NSU site. As we have been repeatedly asserting, any solution to a problem should not lead to another problem
The agreement reached between the state government and Kuki civil society organisations to name the site of National Sports University as Haraothel, Kangpokpi district is bound to create friction among the different communities settling in and around the site. We understand that, the state government is trying to calm ruffled feathers among the Kuki villagers and convince them to call off the highway blockade. But, it certainly does not mean that the government shall overlook the claim of the other side and as a responsible government it has to consider all aspects before arriving at a decision. It is against the claim of the villagers of Senjam Khunou, Senjam Chirang and Koutruk that the site belongs to the three villages and that their forefathers had bought the land from the State Darbar by paying Rs. 13. According to Manipur State Darbar records in 1827, Haraothel is shown as the grazing ground for Senjam Chirang and Senjam Khunou villages. Further, the site comes under the jurisdiction of Imphal West district, according to the Manipur Government gazette notification dated December 20, 2016.
We would like to recall that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for National Sports University on 16 March 2018 at the site and the foundation plaque clearly mentions Imphal as the location. As we said before, a dignitary at the level of the Prime Minister does not get himself unnecessarily involved in a dispute, be it of land or otherwise. And it requires the approval of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for every single word engraved on the foundation or inaugural plaques involving the Prime Minister himself, and the decision would have been arrived at after perusing the land records. So, changing the name of site from ‘National Sports University, Imphal’ to ‘National Sports University, Haraothel, Kangpokpi District’ would certainly be an insult to the Prime Minister himself.
Any claim has to be backed by proper land records and verifiable documents. The geo-political character of our state is based on ‘Ching-Pat-Turel’ and its inhabitants in both the hills and plains, and a lifestyle firmly rooted in interdependence between the valley and hills. Just as the valley people respect the land rights of the people in the hills, the hill people also need to respect the land rights of the valley people, also. It would be considered unwise if the hill dwellers go on claiming every mound and hillock as their ancestral land. Since times immemorial, many villages in the valley had their own ‘Uyoks’ or forests reserves and grazing grounds in the nearby hills. In this backdrop, the state government needs to revisit its decision to rename the NSU site. As we have been repeatedly asserting, any solution to a problem should not lead to another problem. In fact, the state government should have invited all the stakeholders to a joint meeting and try thrashing out the problems arising out of the controversy. Yet, it chose to talk to the Kuki civil society organisations in the presence of Kuki ministers and MLAs, which ultimately led to the controversial decision. It was indeed a one-sided affair and unbecoming of a government.