TODAY -

ATSUM airs concerns to Union minister
Source: Chronicle News Service / NNN

Imphal, November 19 2022: All Tribal Students' Union Manipur (ATSUM) on Saturday called on Union minister of tribal affairs Arjun Munda in New Delhi and apprised him of the threat and insecurity felt by the tribal people of Manipur due to the 'illogical and illegitimate demand' of the STDCM for inclusion of Meetei/Meitei community in ST category.

ATSUM also submitted a memorandum to the union minister pointing out the reasons why Meetei community should not be given the ST status, responding to which Arjun Munda said as the issue is a constitutional matter it will be examined minutely before any decision is made.

In the memorandum submitted on Saturday, ATSUM mentioned that in view of the demand for ST status to Meetei community gaining momentum with most of the legislators from the valley including the Rajya Sabha MP openly declaring their support without taking into account the "irrationality" of the demand and sentiments of the tribal community of the state, it was constrained to submit the representation as a reminder for utmost perusal and intervention as the future of the tribal communities looks bleak and uncertain.

Time and again, ATSUM has "unequivocally expressed" its stated position on this contested demand of the majority community as it poses serious threat to land and existence of tribal people with the reasoning that the Meetei communities are an advanced community marked by 2000 years of civilisation, unbroken lineage of kingship and superlative cultural advancement with its exquisite classical dances purportedly shown as the finest form of arts, Meetei language (Manipuri) recognised under the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution, urban civilisation for eons, participation and signing of international treaties with the British in 1762 AD and 1826 AD, academic advancement with high literacy rate, it pointed.

According to the ATSUM memorandum, 15 students from the Meetei community cracked the NDA examination last year, two civil service exam this year and the bulk of MBBS successful students in the whole North-Eastern states are from the same community.

All state and central higher educational institutes in Manipur are concentrated in the Meitei dominated valley districts, particularly Imphal East and Imphal West districts, it said, adding that recruitments conducted in all these institutions under Unreserved (UR) category are filled up by Meetei community.

Presently, the ST communities of Manipur have 31 per cent reservation in all state government services, the ATSUM memorandum mentioned.

If the advanced Meetei community is recognised as ST by the government, all the seats reserved for ST will be occupied by the Meeteis.

Despite already availing the reservations from SC and OBC categories, Meeteis are insisting for inclusion in ST category with a sole objective of grasping the benefits presently reserved for the hill tribes," it added.

ATSUM further pointed out that the entry of the Meena community of Rajasthan into the ST category has seriously dented the prospect of the other aspirants from the tribal community of India within the purview of UPSC, SSC and other equivalent examinations under the Government of India with them reaping the maximum benefits and the others in trickles.

"And if the Meetei community, which is far advanced than the Meena community, is incorporated it will definitely spell a collective doom for the whole tribal community of India and Manipur in particular," it further noted.

According to ATSUM, "the illogical claim that the Meeteis fulfil all the criterion to become ST on the basis of Mongoloid race and prevalence of distinctive religion and culture is irrational on the ground that any community big or small practices some form of religion and possess a unique culture of their own".

The memorandum also observed that in the Constitution of India, no criteria have been spelt out for specification of a community as an ST.

However, taking into account the definitions in a 1931 census and the reports of the First Backward Classes commission 1955, the advisory committee on revision of ST/SC 1967 and basically based on Article 342 of the Constitution, criteria are followed for specification of a community as a ST.

One criterion is indication of primitive traits, another one is distinctive culture and the third is geographical isolation.

The fourth criteria is "shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness, it explained.

The memorandum also conveyed that STs are tribes or tribal communities or part of groups within these tribes and tribal communities declared as such by the President of India through a public notification partly by habitat and geographical isolation but even more on the basis of social, religion, linguistic and cultural distinctiveness - their tribal characteristic.

Schedule Tribes are spread across the country mainly in the forest and hilly regions segregated from the rest of the world socially and economically.

It is worth mentioning that during a debate in the Constituent Assembly, Dr BR Ambedkar, the chairman of the drafting committee, was very particular about the word Schedule to be used before the 'tribe and the caste' to mean the 'selected or the chosen ones'.

Thus, in the context of India, ST means the selected tribes for protective discrimination to be valid on for 10 years after the promulgation of the Constitution of India, ATSUM memorandum also said.

But since the scheduled group could not come up at par with the rest of the citizens in all the spheres of lives, protective discrimination continues even after sixty years of independence, it further stated.

"It is quite obvious that Meeteis were included in the general category of the people by the central government due to the simple fact that the Meeteis have superseded the component characteristic of a tribe.

In the course of a continuous process of civilisation for over a period of 2000 years dating back from 33 AD, the Meeteis have abandoned/discarded their primitive culture traits from being tribal to general, from rural to urbanisation, economic backwardness to economically advance people in the valley of the golden kingdom (Sana Konung).

"Therefore, the empirical points of arguments and the modalities for deciding claims for inclusion of the Meeties in the ST category involves rational philosophy to ascertain that the proposals are based on the broad criterion," it added.

According to the ATSUM, the social divide between the people of the hills and valley and the derogatory name given to the tribal of Manipur by the Meeteis as 'Haos' besides social segregation as untouchables to the hill men/tribal is an established fact that the Meeteis have crossed several phases of civilisation to the mainstream of modernity.

Since time immemorial, the hills - valley divide has been a major theme in understanding the ethnic relations in Manipur, it also said.

ATSUM claimed that the land of the tribal indigenous peoples in the hills of Manipur is protected by the constitutional provisions which restrict purchase of land in the hills by non-tribal people, including the Meeteis.

It also alleged that the demand for ST status by the Meetei now, "70 years after the Constitution of India made provision for ST, is only a nefarious policy to gain constitutional means to grasp the lands of the tribal people in the hills".

The memorandum said, 'Therefore, in the light of the above facts and circumstance^, the tribal people of the state called upon your honourable self to help prevent the inclusion of Meitei/ Meetei as ST in the Constitution of India" .


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