TODAY -

Meetei's demand for ST is for Constitutional safeguard of Meetei and fertile Imphal valley
- Part 1 -

Dr Thangjam Ranjit *

An offering at Kwak Tanba at Sana Konung and Y A C Ground, Yaiskul on 30 September 2017
An offering at Kwak Tanba at Sana Konung on 30 September 2017 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



The demand for Scheduled Tribe status by Meetei Community for the last five years or so is purely for constitutional safeguard of the Meetei and Imphal valley in the way ST People in the hills are safeguarded. The fact that Meetei is one of the principal indigenous peoples/tribes of the state and North East India is a foregone conclusion. None can challenge the veracity of it.

Again, according to the Supreme Court of India, the highest Court of the country, in one of its land mark judgments on January, 5th 2011, it has been stated that the present Scheduled Tribes of India are the descendents of the original inhabitants, indigenous people or Adivasis of the country and constitute 8.6% of the total population of the country, and one of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities, characterized by high level of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, disease, landlessness, etc.

The Meeteis being indigenous people, bear the above characteristics and hence justified to be included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the country, like other indigenous people numbering more than 720 communities.

Further, the Meetei qualifies to be a Permanent Tribal Society as per the ILO (International Labour Organisation) a specialized agency of UNO(United Nations Organisation) According to ILO convention No. 169, dated 27th June 1989, it was resolved that the community which follows the old traditions, cultures and way of life of their forefathers would be treated as permanent tribal society.

Though, the majority of the Meetei population embrace Hinduism, they have been following age-old traditions and cultures of their fore-fathers i.e. Sanamahism/Meeteism. This is again confirmed by the Census of India 1931, Vol-I, page 320. It records, Manipuri as wholly Hindu Tribe but retaining their distinctive culture and language.

Besides this, followers of Sanamahism/Meeteism who constitute over 2 lakhs population also strictly following old traditions and cultures of their fore-fathers till date.

Contrary to this, our kins in the hills who have embraced Christianity, except few thousand Zeliangrongs, have given up the old traditions and cultures of their forefathers but leading life in the way a true Christian of the West does.

The very fact that Meetei is a tribe/indigenous people of the state is authenticated by many official government records, gazetteers, memoirs, publications, books, articles etc. Mention may be made of the Census of India 1891, 1901 and 1931; Imperial gazetteer of Bengal and Assam 1909; Gazetteer of Manipur by Captain E.W. Dunn (1886) etc. Statistical Accounts of the Native State of Manipur and Hill Territory under its rule by Dr. R. Brown, FRCS Political Agent in Manipur, 1873) mentions Meetei as principal tribe of Manipur.

History of Manipur written by Prof. Gangumei Kabui mentions Meetei as one of the tribes of Manipur. In History of Tangkhul Naga written by ASW Shimray mentions the Tangkhul and Meetei are descendants of the same progenitor in the distant past. Oral tradition of Tangkhul says that the ancestor of the Tangkhul and the Meetei are the brothers.

Meetei and other indigenous communities living in the state under the banner of the League of the Fourth World People, Kangleipak have been conducting every year "Indigenous Brothers' Meet" since 2000 to foster peaceful coexistence among the indigenous people of the state, and the members of the League wholeheartedly give acceptance of Meetei as a tribe/indigene.

Again, according to YL. Roland Shimmi, the author of "Origin, land and language of the Meeteis" it is mentioned "At one time, R. Suisa, Member of Parliament, an intellectual Tangkhul, advised the Meetei that it would be better for the Meeteis to accept Scheduled Tribe status. On hearing his words as having proposed to categorise the Meetei in the lower status as he thought it, a Meetei, M.P. of the time, is said to have become emotional. He did not realize that Meetei are indigenous people. Mr. Suisa, M.P. was giving the best advice a kinsman should give." In fact, he wanted the indigenous people to be in the equal footing for peaceful, and harmonies coexistence, and all round development in the state.

The historic resolution of Congress Govt. led by former C.M. Late Shri Rishang Keishing, the wisest and ablest Nonagenarian Manipur has ever produced, recommending inclusion of Meetei community in the scheduled tribe list in October 28, 1981 in a cabinet decision, is enough proof of fulfilling the criteria of inclusion of Meetei in the ST list of the Indian constitution .

Meetei's demand for ST status is purely to save and protect the fertile Imphal valley and its people from possible extinction in the hands of more skilled, more organized, more hardworking, more advanced, more powerful and more financially sound people who are coming in large numbers like a tsunami wave into this hilly backward state for establishing their permanent business centres, settlements, job centres, etc; more so when Indian Railway reaches Imphal and Trans-Asian Highway passes through Imphal and Moreh in the next few years.

The lands belonging to poor Meetei in the valley will be in the hands of big business sharks, when they want to establish warehouses, godowns, office buildings, hotels, etc, the poverty stricken and money hungry, unskilled and lethargic Meetei will sale their lands in large numbers and thereby will result in shrinkage of arable land and settlement area in the valley, scarcity of locally available tasty and favorite food grains, vegetables, fishes, etc of indigenous people in particular and the people living in the state in general.

Consequently, the Meeteis for want of land for settlement in the valley will look for migration towards hills for settlement and livelihood when the saleable and constitutionally unprotected lands belonging to Meetei in the Imphal valley are owned and purchased easily by rich business men or business sharks coming from outside the state.

In order to save our fertile and productive valley area for increasing agricultural yield, to save the land from buying by rich businessmen, to stop possible migration of Meetei, to shelve demographic imbalance, to meet food grain scarcity, to enable Meetei to compete their counterparts in the ST list in the country for jobs, education and other facilities as guaranteed by Indian constitution for S.T. people. Therefore, the valley districts of the state should be protected under V schedule by enlisting Meetei in the ST list of the country at all cost.

To be continued.......


* Dr Thangjam Ranjit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 12, 2018.


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