TODAY -

Can Meitei/Meetei be a tribe ?

Free Thinker *

  Include Meiti/Meetei in Scheduled Tribe List : Mass Protest Rally :: March 3rd 2019
Include Meiti/Meetei in Scheduled Tribe List : Mass Protest Rally on March 3rd 2019 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



Who is a tribe? Oxford Dictionary says, a tribe is a group of families or communities, linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties and usually having a common culture and dialect and a recognized leader (esp. primitive).

Going by this definition Meiteis are more or less a tribe (sans primitiveness). However, the degree of primitiveness or tribalness is normally measured by the observers from outside.

We have gone through many writings of the Britishers of the colonial era and in their accounts the Meiteis were often directly or indirectlyreferredto as tribal. Inquisitive minds may refer to the accounts of Pemberton, Gordon, TC Hodson, William McCulloh etc. Even by post-IndependenceIndian Cultural Anthropologists recognizeMeiteis as Tribal Hindus of Northeast India.

We all know that there is a yardstick adopted by the Government of India for identifying Scheduled Tribes in the country :
1. Primitive way of life and habitation in remote and less accessible areas;
2. Distinctive culture;
3. Shyness of contact with the community at large;
4. Geographical isolation;
5. General backwardness in all respect.

Perhaps These criteria are not strictly adhered to while giving tribal status to somecommunities. ThoughMeiteiscan’t be asprimitiveas theKorubo tribe (Brazil), orHulis (Indonesia), or Sentinelese (India), or Maoris (New Zealand), or Kazakhs (Mongolia),. But definitely Meiteis may be as primitive & as backward as the Meenas of Rajasthan, Burmans of Tripura & Tai Ahoms of Assam.

As a matter of fact,we want to protect &preserve our land, our identity, our culture and also bring about progress and prosperity for all the people in the State. Most of our democratic movements are centric to protection ofland,resources, identity, culture etc.Whether it is ILPS movement or anti -CAB movement,or Revivalist movement, all these movements are complimentary to one another.

There is no contradiction at all. There may be some minor differences here and there.But in reality, the goal and objectare the same. A proper and profound understanding of the issues will certainly make us realize that the movements are on the similar lines and on similar paradigm.

The instinct of our people is extremely strong. They will surely sense it by now that all these movements are for their protection, preservation, promotion, peace-full existence and prosperity. Let us not divide the people on the basis of our political or religious or ideological or ethnic differences. Let us stand by the common good of the masses.

Remember SC, ST, OBC, etc., is a peculiar Indian arrangement and the rest of the world does not care about it. Being in any category we are not going to gain or lose our position and status in the international fora. It is simply a mechanical mechanism to redress certain grievances ofvariouscommunities and ethnic groups within the country. It is not at all a prestige issue. It is merely a Constitutional arrangement to provide some safeguards to the weaker sections or ethnic groups of the society.

Mind you, it is not about reservation in jobs &educational institutions and tax relief alone, it is more about protecting theland, culture and identity of the people; once you are declared as a scheduled tribe your land, culture and identity is protected either under Art 244 (1) or 244(2) and 275(1).

The purpose of ILP, anti-CAB, and NRC will belargely servedby declaring the State a Tribal State – it is easily feasible once Meiteis are enlisted as ST; and moreover, the Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis can live togather under the same constitutional umbrella. but within the state the share of Nagas & Kukis should not be infringed upon by the majority Meiteis – proper safegurds must be provided.

Have faith in the common sense of the common people. Last time more than fifty thousand were on the streets (though claimed as 1.5 lac); let us see this time, the response.

But there should be no room for violence . It should be absolutely a peaceful and democratic march. BJP, Congress, CPI and others may join en-route amidst thousands of electorates. There is nothing wrong to garner political mileage. Come along.

Government of India normally conceded to the popular demands which are Constitutionally viable. E.g., Statehood (1972), Eighth Schedule(1992) etc.; now demand for tribal status by the sagging Meities may be considered as obliged in the case of Burmans and Tai Ahoms (who were once ruling classes and running their erstwhile States/Kingdoms).




* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on March 08, 2019.



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