Church buildings, homes may be swallowed as Government eyes land for new institute
National Fact Finding Team to probe the situation
The delegation met Smt. Sonia Gandhi
New Delhi, December 3, 2007
A delegation of the "Joint Action Committee for Protection of Residential, Agricultural lands and Wetland of Langol-Lamphelpat Areas" in Imphal West, Manipur, led by Ms. Kim Gangte, former Member of Parliament, met activists, lawyers, human rights activists and political figures in the national capital this week to focus attention on government attempts to usurp people's lands that may inflame passions in the north eastern State.
The issue pertains to the recent announcement by the Central Government to set up a National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Imphal. The delegation said while the NIT was most welcome, the Manipur government's proposal to set it up at Langol-Lamphelpat area would destroy large numbers of homes, and more than that, important religious buildings including several Christian churches and a Jewish Synagogue. This, the delegation said, was totally unacceptable to the people of the state.
The selection of Langol-Lamphelpat is an afterthought by the Manipur Government. It had proposed to set up the NIT at Kyamgei, but bowed to the political pressure of the majority community. "Langol-Lamphelpat area was then chosen, over-riding strong protests by the ethnic and minority communities who are considered a soft target by the Manipur government," said Ms. Gangte.
Of 300 acres earmarked now as the proposed site for constructing the NIT, 149 acres belong to 3,000 families, almost all of them belonging to mixed ethnic tribal communities. Four churches and one synagogue have existed on the land for decades.
The land acquisition was notified to the residents and owners by Principal Secretary, Government of Manipur Sri P. Sharat Chandra on September 27, 2007 referring to the section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
The delegation said if Manipur government continues to pursue in acquiring the land, there is a fear of another Nandigram erupting in the state of Manipur. The land acquisition will destroy the harmonious social fabric that existed between different communities, particularly of the hill and valley and may provoke communal disharmony in the state.
All India Christian Council has constituted a National Level Fact Finding Team, consists of Social Activists, Human Rights Activist, Journalist, Lawyers and politicians to assess the situation within a short time. A public jury hearing of the affected area of the proposed site will be conducted by fact finding team and approach Manipur Government accordingly.
The Joint Action Committee has submitted memorandums to the Prime Minister Office earlier requesting to direct Manipur Government to review the decision and the same memorandum is also written to Christian Ministers and MPs to look into the matter to protect the interests of religious minority and ethnic tribal communities that are facing displacement.
Earlier Langol Area Churches Forum also submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Sri O. Ibobi Singh to protect and preserve the religious establishments and churches falling within the proposed site.
Speaking to All India Christian Council, Sri Rishang Keishing, Member of the Rajya Sabha said, "The church building at Kangla left by Assam Rifle must be protected and preserved as it is a symbol of State Integrity." Source reaching to Christian Council, the church building at Kangla fort has been disappeared now.
The delegation also met Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and the concern of the residents of the proposed area for construction of the said NIT project. Mrs. Gandhi has taken note of the concern and assured the delegation to look into the matter.
Earlier this year, when Assam Government issued notice to Guwahati Panbazar Mission compound to convert into city car parking, Mrs. Gandhi directed Chief Minister Sri Tarun Gogoi to look other alternative when Christians and secular groups protested.
The All India Christian Council ([->www.aiccindia.org]), birthed in 1998, exists, to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.
Mr. Madhu Chandra