TODAY -

Meitei - Scheduled Tribe?

C Doungel *



Meiteis are one of the principle indigenous communities who has lent the name Manipur to the erstwhile kingdom and ruled it for centuries. They have a history of more than two thousand years which are chronicled in the official annals of "Cheitharol Kumbaba" but which were destroyed a great deal during 'Puya Meithaba' in 1728.

Meitei language being used in administration, it attained the position of langua-franca of the Kingdom. This, along with permanent settlement enabled development of the language and literature to such level that the same has been included in the 8th Schedule.

These naturally led to emergence of a highly developed society, rich in refinement and culture. Over the years, these however led to the shedding of their primitive nature, the way the Anglo-Saxon and Jute tribes of England emerged as English people after shedding their tribal traits.

Even Aryans, as we know, consisted of many tribes in the pre-vedic age but later evolved into major Hindu communities inhabiting northern India after shedding their tribal traits and assimilating others.

The conversion of Meitei King to Hinduism followed by that of others brought a great swing towards hindu civilisation. This also brought about assimilation of Brahmans into Meitei community. In the conflict between their original tribal nature and hindu caste system, the later prevailed and a composite Meitei community comprising of Brahmans, Kshetriyas and Sudras (Scheduled Castes) evolved.

Under the influence of Hinduism, Meitei dances have attained such level of excellence that 'Ras Lila' dance is included in Indian classical dance now. Jawaharlal Nehru Dance Academy has now developed into full-fledged Cultural University, the second of its kind in the country after Viswa Bharati at Santiniketan in Bengal.

Side by side, there has been introduction of dress code for social and ceremonial functions. Excellence of horse riding has contributed to the birth of the Game of Polo in Manipur which is played all over the world now.

From all the above, it is seen that Meiteis have outgrown their tribal status as other advanced communities. They have evolved into a composite three tier society i.e. (1) Brahmans, (2) Kshetriyas, and (3) Sudras (Scheduled Caste) as different from a single tier classless tribal societies.

How they will fit in the event of their being listed as Scheduled Tribe will be baffling.

Scheduled castes are already in the listed class and the others are also a class apart by themselves. Will a tribal Brahmin be acceptable to other Hindus?

The case of other communities of Assam cited and recommended for inclusion in Scheduled tribe lists differ because they are all single-tier communities.

The demand for inclusion in Scheduled tribe list is said to be caused by feeling of insecurity, aggravated by apprehension of marginalisation in the wake of opening up of the eastern frontiers under Govt. of India's Act-East policy which will further increase with the coming of railroads.

As there will be expansion of trade and commerce, there will also be great inflow of people for these activities, making business also more competitive because of which the need for protection would be very badly felt.

Here again, if meiteis who constitute sixty percent of the state population and virtually control the affairs of the state of Manipur, the much smaller communities will all the more require such protection.

Earlier attempts to pass such laws for protection of indigenous people of Manipur were handled so badly that they have given rise to unnecessary fears. The first one failed to mention about protection of indigenous people altogether while in the second one, the definition of Manipuris was made unintelligible and impractical.

A simple one that Manipuri means "all indigenous inhabitants i.e. Meiteis, Meitei-Pangal and all indigenous tribes" would have sufficed and in the other domiciled persons category, "whose names are in the electoral roll/census, National citizenship register etc etc. of… may be required as agreed upon among stakeholders, would do.

Meiteis, Pangal, Kukis or Nagas from outside Manipur who had come after the cut off year shall come under other category With regards to amendment of M.L.R. Act, a proviso that the same is applicable to areas covered by the original Act only, if added can take care of the problem.

A moot point for consideration is that inclusion of Meitei in Scheduled Tribe list will bring about a teutonic shift in the communities equations in the state. Restrictions on transfer of land between hills and valley people will require complete reviewed i.e. land tenure system in the hills vis-a-vis M.L.R. Act.

Further, present reservation of 30% of government jobs in the state for Scheduled tribes will no longer be applicable. In such a scenario, existing tribals may not be able to get even 10% of employment in state govt. jobs. They are bound to be reaction on these things which may be very disastrous.




* C Doungel wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 12 , 2018.



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