TODAY -

Antagonists of ST demand for Meiteis : Idea of Manipur
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: December 03, 2022 -



It is not something out of the script and this is what The Sangai Express had foreseen and hence did not come as something out of the blue. Close of the heels of the All Tribal Students' Union, Manipur asserting its stand vis-a-vis the demand that the Meiteis be included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India, came the All Naga Students' Association, Manipur echoing the same stand as ATSUM.

Nothing surprising here, for remember ANSAM is a constituent unit of ATSUM and one may expect a similar stand from the Kuki Students' Organisation, General Headquarters in the coming days.

Manipur has already seen the debates that raged on between ATSUM and the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur, World Meetei Council and Kangleipak Kanba Lup on the other and now one may expect such line of debates to rage on between ANSAM and the ST for Meiteis advocates.

Such a stand off will surely give the needed time and space to the State Government to breathe a little easily as it would take more than convincing powers and political dexterity to steer one's way between the two conflicting stands but one certainly does not expect the BJP led Government at Imphal to be seen as dithering over such an important issue.

It is a given that important issues come with its share of sensitivity and the ST Tag for Meiteis surely comes with its share of sensitive parts but this is not something which should derail the issue.

As a Government which is there to protect the interests of Manipur, it is important for all to realise that the call to include the Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution goes much beyond speaking out for one community but underlines the need to give some sort of a Constitutional protection to the geo-political reality that is Manipur.

The understanding of Manipur will go haywire if the valley areas, the ancestral land of the Meiteis, is left open to the pulls and pushes that will come in the face of the rapid spread and understanding of a global village.

Surely Manipur cannot expect to escape from the expanding reach of globalisation, more so when the train is scheduled to arrive here any day soon.

Protect the land and resources of the valley areas of Manipur, where the Meiteis reside and this means giving Constitutional protection to a geo-political entity.

Leaving the valley area open to all the land sharks and Constitutionally protecting only the hills will defeat the idea of Manipur.

Batting for including the Meiteis in the ST list should be seen beyond the clamour of a community but about the idea of protecting Manipur.

Obvious that to those who have never identified themselves with the idea of Manipur, such a vision will not get registered in their consciousness.

It is this thought process which should not be lost on the State Government and it should be clear that the longer the matter is delayed, the more intense the stand off will be.

It is not the job of STDCM, WMC, KKL or ATSUM or ANSAM and even the State Government to decide whether the Meiteis should be included in the ST list or not, but what cannot be denied is the fact that asking for inclusion of Meiteis in the ST list is about protecting the existence of Manipur.

It was not so long back that Chief Minister N Biren himself publicly acknowledged that it is the Meiteis who have been at the forefront in protecting the identity of Manipur and in line with this, the recommendation should be sent to the Centre.

It should also be clear to the State Government that including the Meiteis in the ST list is the best way forward to ensure the continued existence of Manipur as a distinct geo-political reality.

What can one expect from those who have not identified themselves with the idea of a Manipur and what is their interest in claiming that the Meiteis need no protection since 'the Meiteis are an advanced' group of people ?

Defies logic, but then let it be.

It is also important for the protagonists of the ST categorisation to concentrate their energy and minds on piling the pressure on the State Government to send the needed recommendations and not be distracted by the war of words with those standing against the demand.

This is not the time for argument, for the objection raised more than qualifies as an argument. Nothing more.



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