Land Laws, Ownership and Tribal Identity: The Manipur Experience

  • Ngamjahao Kipgen


The Manipur Land Reform and Land Revenue Act, 1960 is extended to the whole valley but applies only to a negligible portion of the hill area. Over the years, the state government of Manipur has attempted to pass several land laws with certain amendments and the recent one being the New Land Use Policy, 2014. Each time the state government attempts to do so it reinstates ethnic polarisation and intensified conflicts within the state. The introduction of any legislation such as land tenure in the hill areas is seen with suspicion and considers being destructive to tribal land ownership system based on traditional customary laws. Popular perception is that such a law will not only erode the traditional polity but also marginalise the tribals and alienate them from their ownership and possession of the land. This chapter examines the issues and problems that revolve around land laws and policies and attempts to explain why such position has been imbibed among the tribal people affecting their political, economic and social development drawn largely from fieldwork conducted during 2009 and 2011.


Hill areas Land regulations Land ownership Manipur Tribal people Tribal identity 


  1. Bhadra, G. (1975). The Kuki (?) uprising (1917–19): Its causes and nature. Man in India, 55(1), 10–56.Google Scholar
  2. Das, J. N. (1989). A study of the land system of Manipur. Shillong: North Eastern Council.Google Scholar
  3. Das, J. N. (1995). Customary land system of Hill Ethnoses of Manipur. In N. Sanajaoba (Ed.), Manipur past and present: The ordeals and heritage of a civilization, (Vol. III/ Nagas & Kuki-Chins) (pp. 48–60). New Delhi: Mittal Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Dasgupta, M. (1991). Impact of land reforms in North East India. Guwahati, New Delhi: Omsons Publications.Google Scholar
  5. Dena, L. (2006). Historical perspectives of the process of marginalisation: A study of the hill peoples’ experience in Manipur. Paper presented at a seminar on The Marginalized Indigenous Hill People in Manipur: Problems and Options. New Delhi, 8, 9 December 2006.Google Scholar
  6. Dena, L. (2009). Discrimination against tribe peoples in matters of land management and self-government in the hill areas of Manipur. Paper presented at the National Seminar on Atrocity of SC ST, organised by Tribal Research Institute, Government of Manipur, Imphal, 28th & 29th July 2009.Google Scholar
  7. Devi, P. B. (2006). Tribal land system of Manipur. New Delhi: Akansha.Google Scholar
  8. Fernandes, W. (2003). Development environment and the livelihood of the poor in the northeast. Social Action, 53(3), 241–255.Google Scholar
  9. Fernandes, W. (n.d.). Tribal customary and formal law interface in North-Eastern India: Implications for land relations. Retrieved March 10, 2015, from
  10. Gangte, P. M., & Singh, A. K. (2010). Understanding Kuki since primordial times. New Delhi: Maxford Books.Google Scholar
  11. Government of Manipur. (2014). New land use policy/project of Manipur (2014): An approach paper. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from
  12. Grierson, G. A. (2001). Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. III, Part III. Manipur Fact File, 2001, AMCTA.Google Scholar
  13. Haokip, T. T. (2009). Critically assessing Kuki land system in Manipur. In Ch. Priyoranjan Singh (Ed.), Tribalism and the tragedy of the commons: Land, identity and development, the Manipur experience (pp. 304–328). Delhi: Akansha Publishing House.Google Scholar
  14. Hassan, M. S. (2006). Explaining Manipur’s breakdown and Mizoram’s peace: The state and identities in Northeast India. Crisis States Programme, LSE: Working Paper 79, pp. 1–34.Google Scholar
  15. Hungyo, P. (1987). Land tenure system in the hills of Manipur: A comparative study of Tangkhul Nagas and the Thadou Kuki. In B. B. Dutta & M. N. Karna (Eds.), Land relations in North-East India (pp. 65–70). New Delhi: People’s Publishing House.Google Scholar
  16. Jose, R. M. C. (1986). Study on the problem of discrimination against indigenous populations, UN Document No. E/CN.4?Sub.211986/7/Addl, paras. 196 and 197.Google Scholar
  17. Karlsson, B. G. (2011). Unruly hills: Nature and nation in India’s Northeast. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan Pvt. Ltd.Google Scholar
  18. Kipgen, S. (2009). Land, identity and development: Perceptions focusing on the tribals of Manipur. In C. P. Sindh (Ed.), Tribalism and the tragedy of the commons land, identity and development: The Manipur experience (pp. 329–348). New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House.Google Scholar
  19. Kipgen, N. (2017). The enclosures of colonization: Indigeneity, development, and the case of Mapithel Dam in Northeast India. Asian Ethnicity, 18(4), 505–521.Google Scholar
  20. Kipgen, N., & Roy Chowdhury, A. (2016). Contested state-craft on the Frontiers of the Indian Nation: ‘Hills-valley divide’ and the genealogy of Kuki Ethnic nationalism in Manipur. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 16(2), 283–303.Google Scholar
  21. Kshetri, R. (2006). District councils in Manipur (formation and functioning). New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House.Google Scholar
  22. Kuki National Assembly. (1960). Kuki State. A Memorandum of the Kuki National Assembly to the Prime Minister of India (PMO) Office.Google Scholar
  23. Kulkarni, S. (1987). Forest legislations and tribals: Comments on forest policy resolution. Economic and Political Weekly, 22(50), 2143–2148.Google Scholar
  24. Malinowski, B. (1965). Coral Gardens and their Magic. Bloomington: Indian University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Morris, D., & Marsh, P. (1988). Tribes. London: Pyramid.Google Scholar
  26. Nandi, A., & Bose, P. K. (1991). Shifting cultivation in Manipur. In S. Bose (Ed.), Shifting cultivation in India (pp. 52–59). Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India.Google Scholar
  27. Ray, A. K. (1990). Authority and legitimacy: A study of the Thadou-Kukis in Manipur. Delhi: Renaissance Publishing House.Google Scholar
  28. Ray, A. K., & Kamkhenthang, H. (1997). District councils in Manipur visa-a-vis sixth schedule. In L. S. Gassah (Ed.), Autonomous district councils (pp. 243–255). Delhi: Omsons Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Reid, R. (1997). History of the Frontier areas bordering on Assam from 1883–1941. Guwahati: Spectrum Publications.Google Scholar
  30. Roy Burman, B. K. (1992). Historical process in respect of communal land system and poverty alleviation among tribals. In B. Chaudhuri (Ed.), Tribal transformation in India (Vol. 1, pp. 131–161). Economy and Agrarian Issues New Delhi: Inter India Publications.Google Scholar
  31. Ruivah, K. (1987). Land ownership and its problems among the Tangkhul Nagas. In B. B. Dutta & M. N. Karna (Eds.), Land relations in North-East India (pp. 54–64). New Delhi: People’s Publishing House.Google Scholar
  32. Shimray, U. A. (2001). Ethnicity and socio-political assertion: The Manipur experience. Economic and Political Weekly, 36(39), 3674–3677.Google Scholar
  33. Shimray, U. A. (2008). Land use system in Manipur Hills: A case study of the Tangkhul Naga. In: W. Fernandes & S. Barbora (Eds.), Land, people and politics: Contest over tribal land in Northeast India (pp. 88–112). Guwahati: NESRC & IWGIA.Google Scholar
  34. Suan, K. H. (2009). Hills- valley divide as a site of conflict: Emerging dialogic space in Manipur. In S. Baruah (Ed.), Beyond counter-insurgency: Breaking the impasse in Northeast India (pp. 263–289). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Yumnam, J. (2014, July 22). New nuisance: Manipur’s New Land Use Policy 2014. The Sangai Express, p. 3.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIndian Institute of TechnologyGuwahatiIndia

Personalised recommendations