Meet calls for protecting forest dwellers

NNN IMPHAL, 5th May: 
A day-long seminar on "Schedule Tribe Traditional Forest Dwellers’ Rights" has recommended for a joint struggle by the age-old villages under the Forest Dwellers’ Association (FDA), Manipur for finding justice against the laws of the Forest department of Manipur which tend to uproot the age-old forest dwellers.
During the seminar, participants deplored the weakness and non-functional state of Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of Manipur Legislative Assembly ever since its inception in 1971 under Article 371(c) of Indian Constitution. According to the participants, 20 MLAs of HAC did nothing to protect the rights of the hill people and villages till date.
The seminar was organised by FDA at TRl auditorium hall, Chingmeirong on Saturday with a massive get together of the hill leaders and victims of eviction drives.
Resource persons of the seminar included senior advocate R Daniel, Dr R Sanga, Dr Benjamin Gangmei and advocate Aaron Keishing.
Advocate Daniel stated that the hill villages are existing for centuries as owners of the forest lands before the enactment of law for conservation of forests and the lndian Forests Act, 1927; Manipur Forest Act, 1989 and other such laws. He alleged that the forest department only trespassed upon the indigenous hill peoples’ villages, and not the villages encroached upon the reserve forest lands. He also stated that there are forests where every tribal and other traditional forest villages exist.
The seminar recommended and urged the HAC to intervene in the ‘eviction raids’ at many age-old tribal villages of Langol foot hills and other places, show cause notice served to Pantilong (Lambansok), Nagaching (Lambansok), Aenon village and others near Koirengei foot hills while urging the state government to implement the ST and forest Dweller’s Recognition of (right) Act, 2006.
Resource persons and other speakers of the seminar acknowledged the traditional practices of controlling of wild fire, felling of trees and poaching of wild life with heavy fine of offering pig and money, etc.
The seminar urged the state, NGOs and individuals not to misjudge the aged old tribal villages as encroachers without knowledge of the details and history of these villages.

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