A three-member ministerial team of the state on Sunday inspected the tension-hit border areas between Tungjoy village, Manipur and Khezhakeno village, Phek district, Nagaland.
A heated exchange of argument ensued between villagers of Tungjoy village, Senapati district, Manipur and villagers of Khezhakeno Village, Phek district, Nagaland, when the three member ministerial team of the state along with villagers of Tungjoy came for inspection.
There has been a long standing conflict between the two villages over traditional land ownership at the disputed area. The three member committee was formed following a cabinet decision, with Dikho as the chairman, to resolve the border issue.
Villagers of Tungjoy claimed that a monolith which they had erected at their village was recently dismantled by villagers of Khezhakeno. Claiming that the land belongs to Khezhakeno village, a new monolith was allegedly erected by Khezhakeno villagers who further dug out a hole on the road to stop the Tungjoy villagers from entering the area.
A villager of Tungjoy, PT Arhai speaking to the media said, the boundary dispute between Tungjoy and Khezhakeno started in the early part of the 19th century and it has not been settled till date.
Arhai explained that the so called disputed land actually belonged to Tungjoy village. Their forefathers practiced agriculture freely without any disturbance from other people until the deputy commissioner of Naga Hills district and the then political agent of Manipur made a ‘temporary inter-district boundary’ between Manipur and Nagaland, he said. The temporary boundary was created without conducting any proper survey and taking the consent of the landowners, he claimed.
He said taking the advantages of the situation, the villagers of Khezhakeno started claiming the land of Tungjoy village. Nevertheless, the matter was settled based on a survey map of 1924 of the then government.
He further informed that in connection with the case on May 16, 1952, the deputy commissioner of Naga Hills district and the deputy commissioner of Manipur jointly passed an order directing the villagers of Khezhakeno and Tungjoy not to cross the boundary till the district boundary is ascertained by conducting a survey.
In the year 1966, the case was heard in the court of Commissioner, Layne division, Japfu state, Federal government of Nagaland and the court directed all the villagers not enter the disputed land until its final settlement. However, the dispute has not been settled till today, continued Arhai.
Defying the court order, the villagers of Khezhakeno with the support of Nagaland government has inaugurated a resort and constructed Nagaland Armed Police camp. Moreover, the Nagaland government is planning to celebrate Hornbill festival in the disputed area, charged Arhai.
The aggrieved Tungjoy villager further said slogan of safeguarding the territorial integrity of Manipur will be meaningless if the state government is unable to settle the issue at the earliest and protect the ancestral territory of the village.
He appealed to the state government to solve the border dispute issue at the earliest before any untoward incident takes place between the villagers of Khezhakeno and Tungjoy.
A person who identified himself as president of Khezhakeno Youth Organisation, Senovielhou Koza claimed that the villagers of Tungjong have encroached around half kilometre to Khezhakeno village land and burned down huts of the resort twice.
He cautioned if such unwanted incidents happen again in the future, the villagers of Khezhakeno will not remain silent. “I am Naga. If someone comes and try to attack my home, I have the right to avenge them. Though we want peaceful coexistence, we will break it if such acts repeat in the future,” he added.
PHED minister, L Dikho who is the chairman of the team, while briefing to the media after the inspection said, the team has conducted the survey to settle the dispute as maintaining good relationship with neighbouring states and country is a must.
The minister said, “We came to check the ground reality. We are not coming to argue with anyone. Now, we have understood the ground reality and the matter will be discussed in a cabinet level by the state government and further proceed to settle the issue by approaching the Nagaland government.”
“What can be done will be done at the best level in the interest of the people of Manipur in regards to the dispute. A solution will be brought very soon,” said Revenue minister, Karam Shyam.
The team has observed that the issue cannot be settled at the village level so the team has decided to settle the matter at the state government level. “As we observed the tense situation between the two villages, we will consult the chief minister for bringing a solution at the earliest,” said Tribal and Hills Areas minister, N Kayisii.