CVOs decry implementation of ST and Traditional Forest Dwellers Act in Jiribam

Civil organisations in Jiribam has said that the Act to be implemented on October 12 as per the sensitisation meeting notice by the deputy commissioner of Jiribam has shocked many tribal villages.

The Hmar Inpui GHQ, KSO (J and T), Hmar Women Association (Jiribam area), Hmar National Union Jiribam and United Chief Committee, Jiribam have decried the proposed implementation of the Scheduled Tribe and Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in Jiribam district.

A joint release by the CVOs has said that the Act to be implemented on October 12 as per the sensitisation meeting notice by the deputy commissioner of Jiribam has shocked many tribal villages. The rationale behind the proposed implementation of the Act is a matter of grave concern for the tribal villages and their land in Jiribam, it added.

It is a fact which can never be distorted that all the tribal villages of Jiribam are living in tribal land under chieftainship land rights and have officially recognised chiefs. Community land holdings are the recognised norm of land ownership in the tribal villages of Jiribam and each and every village had been paying Hill House Tax from over a hundred years in the past, said the release.

It continued that paying of Hill House Tax was refused to be accepted by the government in 2017 and in spite of myriad appeals by tribal CVO leaders of Jiribam for the continuation of payment of Hill House Tax, the government had turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the tribal populace.

“The intention to implement the Scheduled Tribe and Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in Jiribam district instead of reviving payment of Hill House Tax has sent a strong message to the tribal people of Jiribam that a sinister design is being planned by the government to reduce the status of tribals of Jiribam to that of beggars in their own land over which they had enjoyed rights for centuries,” said the release.

Why would not the government allow the payment of Hill House Tax which tribal villages had been doing all the while even when Jiribam was a sub-division in Imphal East District? Is the motto of ‘hill and valley people are one’ to be practiced at the expense of robbing the tribals of their land rights?, questioned the CVOs in the release.

It further said that the tribal villages do not need to be covered under the Scheduled Tribe and Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in Jiribam district. Since all the tribal villages are Hill House Taxpaying villages, it is a fact that no villages and their land are in Forest Reserves. The crucial need is to restore the land rights of the villages by restoring Hill House Tax payment, it added.

Forcible attempts at the implementation of the Act without considering the land rights of the tribals of Jiribam will be taken as gross violation of human rights and tribal land rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution and such efforts will be opposed at all cost, said the release.

First Published:Oct. 11, 2020, 9:08 a.m.

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