TODAY -

Keeping ST status demand off the spotlight : Constitutional safeguards
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: December 04 2020 -



Keeping the demand for Scheduled Tribe status on the Meitei off the spotlight for the time being and the rightful demand should not be used as a bargaining chip in dealing with any other issue besieging Manipur.

This was the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) in response to an earlier statement issued by the Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL), demanding that the Meiteis should be accorded Scheduled Tribe status in the face of the impending final deal to be inked with the NSCN (IM) and the Kuki SoO groups.

The line of reasoning furnished by the KKL rests on the premise that the Nagas and Kukis of Manipur will be benefiting in terms of getting autonomous administrative setups under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India and it is only the Meiteis who will be left without any Constitutional protection and hence the need for some sort of a Constitutional protection, which the categorisation as ST will help.

Both sides, meaning the KKL and the STDCM have their own points to come out with their stand on the issue and the core is obviously the need for the Meitei community to have some sort of a Constitutional protection.

It is only the Meiteis along with some communities of Assam and Tripura which have been clubbed under the general category and bereft of any Constitutional protection in the North East region of India and this is where the demand for ST status needs to be seen.

It is also interesting to see that the demand for ST status for the Meiteis have run into opposition, not from the Government but from some section of the tribal population in Manipur and one can still recall the verbal duel between those who espouse this cause and the Ail Tribal Students' Union, Manipur some time back.

Equally interesting is also the opposition to the demand from some section of the Meitei society itself and there have been full throated debates on this issue some time back and one wonders if Manipur will again see those days once the demand for ST status for the Meiteis returns to the spotlight.

Tough to say how things will unfold in the coming days, but be assured that the STDCM is intent on pursuing the ST status demand.

This will of course mean piling the pressure on the State Government to recommend the same to the Centre.

Significant to note too that the Government of Assam has already recommended to the Centre that the ST status be granted to six communities of Assam, the Chutiya, Koch-Rajbongshi, Matak, Moran, Tai-Ahom and the Tea Tribe.

October 30 was the deadline set for the final report to be submitted to the Centre and much like in Manipur, the process to include the six communities of Assam in the ST category has been opposed by the tribal community of the neighbouring State.

However there is a difference in the sense that there is not much report of the same being opposed from any section of the six communities named for inclusion in the ST category.

This perhaps is the big difference that one can see between Manipur and Assam in the process to grant ST status on some communities.

Significant to note too that votaries of the ST status had explained that the Meiteis getting the ST tag would not infringe on the reservation quota of the existing tribal groups, arguing that this can be worked out according to the population strength of each community.

Whichever way one views the situation, it stands that some sort of Constitutional protection for the Meiteis may be just what the doctor ordered.

A look at the demand for the ILPS back then and the then strong opposition to Citizenship Amendment Act should underline this need.



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