Kevipodi Urges To Resolve Kezolta Issue - Eastern Mirror
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Kohima, Nagaland

Kevipodi urges to resolve Kezolta issue

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By Menuse-O Max Khieya Updated: Feb 27, 2024 10:28 pm
Kezolta issue
Kevipodi Sophie at Nagaland Legislative Assembly Secretariat on Tuesday in Kohima. (EM Images)

KOHIMA — Member of Nagaland Legislative Assembly (MLA) from 14th Southern Angami Constituency-I, Kevipodi Sophie, has underscored urgent need to address the traditional ownership and preserve the ecological integrity of Kezolta, a vital biodiversity resource under threat from encroachment and exploitation, for the welfare of concerned parties and wider eco-system.

Sophie presented a statement concerning the longstanding traditional land dispute over Kezoltsa, emphasising the critical nature of the issue, as a matter of urgent public importance during the fourth session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly on Tuesday in Kohima. He highlighted the enduring dispute over the Kezoltsa among the Maram, Mao and Southern Angami communities spanning several decades.

Sophie emphasised that the Kezoltsa, revered for its vast biodiversity, has historically been under the traditional ownership and protection of the Southern Angamis since time immemorial. He noted that due to rampant theft of forest resources and widespread destruction of the ecosystem, the Southern Angamis took proactive measures. He stated that a dedicated rest house at the site was aimed at monitoring, protecting and preserving the rich flora and fauna within the precincts of Kezoltsa.

He alleged that despite those efforts, volunteers from Songsong village of Manipur maliciously destroyed the rest house for which the matter was subsequently brought before the Tenyimi Central Union (TCU), now known as the Tenyimi People’s Organisation (TPO).

Sophie stated that the Manipur government under the patronage of Mao Council in pursuance of a memorandum dated April 23, 2015, had illegally encroached and forcefully occupied Kezoltsa and deployed armed security forces and carried out massive permanent development activities, extracting and looting timber and plundering all resources within Kezoltsa which falls under the Southern Angami traditional territory that has been preserved and protected by the ancestors since time immemorial.

While highlighting genealogy and subsequent development, Sophie claimed the Manipur government continued to impose CrPC 144 since February 11, 2021, till date.

He reiterated that the issue was a matter of concern for the people as their ancestral and traditional lands lie across the arbitrary drawn imaginary line of the Nagaland-Manipur political state boundary, which was drawn without the consent of the local dwellers.

“It must be understood that the dispute of this matter is in no way an attempt to alter or change any arbitrary political state boundary although drawn without the consent of the local dwellers, but to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on whichever side of the arbitrary boundary it may fall,” Sophie said.

Maintaining that communities have historically coexisted within their ancestral territories long before the delineation of arbitrary state boundaries, he cited the example of Okhro-Ikhro village belonging to the Mao people. Situated within the political boundaries of Nagaland, yet under the administrative jurisdiction of Senapati district in Manipur, this village illustrates the complexity of territorial governance, he emphasised.

Furthermore, he highlighted the noteworthy acknowledgment by the Angamis of Nagaland regarding the traditional ownership of the Mao people, despite the village falling within Nagaland’s political boundary.

He pointed out that in addition to this, a portion of the Khuzama TB Hospital, a facility owned by the Nagaland government, occupied land traditionally belonging to the Mao people.

Despite the Mao tribe not being officially recognized in Nagaland, the government acknowledged their ownership by granting 15 Grade IV positions at the TB hospital to members of the Mao community from Manipur, he said.

“Such instances of traditional ownership across the arbitrary state boundary exist not only in this Angami area but also under Phek district of Nagaland,” Sophie contended.

He further asserted that if neighboring governments acknowledge the traditional ownership of lands across such arbitrary boundaries, without disregarding these delineations, many inter-village land disputes would naturally diminish.

“It must be noted that the Mao people has no traditional territory that borders with Kezoltsa. This is acknowledged also by the people of Maram Khullen, Sangkungmei, Willong and Yang Khullen of Manipur state who shares common traditional boundary with the Angamis and which is duly acknowledged by them,” Sophie claimed.

Sophie affirmed that the Angamis under any circumstances cannot part with its traditional land and this assertion has no conflict with the existing political state boundary.

“It is high time that the state government intervenes to protect the rights and ownership of the people, making it lawfully acceptable and recognised by both the state governments and the civil societies,” he said.

He emphasised that the state government must find a means to facilitate and resolve the issue with due recognition of genuine traditional owners and through the employment of customary and traditional laws prevailing amongst the Tenyimi family.

Sophie further sought immediate intervention from the state government to protect Kezoltsa from exploitation and to preserve its eco-biodiversity zone by deploying state government agencies concerned.

“It is essential to note that this area serves as a catalyst for eco-bio diversity not only for Nagaland and Manipur, but also for the entire northeastern states and should be protected at all cost from being devastated and exploited,” he concluded.

Patton assures government support

Supplementing Kevipodi Sophie, Deputy Chief Minister and in-charge of Home and Border Affairs, Y Patton, has assured government’s support to resolve the longstanding land dispute over Kezoltsa.

Patton acknowledged the significance on the issue, which is affecting both the people and the state particularly the Southern Angami Public Organisation (SAPO) and the neighboring Mao villages of Manipur, represented by the Mao Council.

While emphasising the need to preserve and nurture the great treasure inherited from the forefathers, he has assured full support from the state government for the protection of the traditional land basing on amicable resolution, which would be acceptable by the tribal bodies.

He further urged the people to take note of the government’s efforts and recent developments, emphasising the importance of their full cooperation and collective efforts toward achieving a harmonious settlement.

6148
By Menuse-O Max Khieya Updated: Feb 27, 2024 10:28:22 pm
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