Why should Meitei be included in the scheduled tribe list ?

Prof. K. Yugindro Singh *

The Government of India under the British recognized the ‘Meithei’ (now called Meitei/Meetei) as a tribe belonging to the Kuki-Chin group. The proofs regarding this fact are contained in many documents published by the British’s Government of India including the Linguistic Survey of India Volume III: Tibeto-Burman Family, Part III by G. A. Grierson first published in the year 1904 and the Census of India, 1901Volume I Part I- Report by H. H. Risley and E.A Gait first published in the year 1903.

In the Census of India, 1901 Volume I (1903) at pages 270-275, it is categorically stated that Meithei is a sub-group of the group of Kuki-Chin tribes which comprises of the following sub-groups having the population shown therein:

Sub-group Population
Meithei 272,997
Old Kuki 8,841
Northern Chin 3,470
Central Chin 76,031
Southern Chin 27,162
Unspecified 235,645
Total, Kuki-Chin group 624,149

The said volume of the Census of India, 1901 reports that the languages of the Kuki-Chin tribes fall into two sub-groups: the ‘Meithei’ and the ‘Chin’. It is asserted that Meithei is the language of the original settlers in Manipur and Chin that of the settlers in the Lushai and Chin Hills. The Chin sub-group contains over thirty distinct languages which may again be sub-divided into Northern Chin, Central Chin, Old Kuki and Sothern Chin.

The Linguistic Survey of India Volume III : Tibeto-Burman Family, Part III identifies Meithei as a tribe of the group of Kuki-Chin tribes and it gives a detailed analysis of the languages spoken by all Kuki-Chin tribes including Meithei tribe. As such, the said Linguistic Survey classifies the Kuki-Chin tribes in two categories namely, Meithei and Chin languages whose details are reproduced as under:

I. Meithei 240,637
II. Chin Languages 60,345
1. Northern Group a. Thado 31,437
b. Sokte 9,005
c. Siyin 1,770
d. Ralte 18,133
e. Paite ?
2. Central Group a. Tashon 39,215 107,604
b. Lai 22,450
c. Lakher 1,100
d. Lushai 40,539
e. Banjogi 500
f. Pankhu 800
3. Old Kuki a. Rangkhol 7,820 48,814
b. Bete 630
c. Hallam 26,648
d. Langrong 6,266
e. Aimol 750 (?)
f. Anal 750 (?)
g. Chiru 750 (?)
h. Hiroi-Lamgang 750 (?)
i. Koireng 750 (?)
j. Kom 750 (?)
k. Purum 750 (?)
l. Mhar 2000
m. Cha ?
4. Southern Group a. Chinme ? 110,225
b. Welanung ?
c. Chinbok ?
d. Yiudu ?
e. Chinbon ?
f. Khayang or Sho 95,599
g. Khami 14,626
Gran Total, at least 567,625

The said Linguistic Survey reports “With the exception of the Meitheis, who have been settled in the Manipur valley for more than a thousand years, all the Kuki-Chin tribes appear to have lived in a nomadic state for some centuries. It would seem that they all settled in the Lushai and Chin Hills some time during the last two centuries, …”.

Manipur was merged with the Union of India with effect from the 15th October, 1949 after signing of the historic Manipur Merger Agreement between the Governor General of India and the Maharaja of Manipur on the 21st September, 1949. Under the new Constitution, India was declared a republic on the 26th January 1950 with Manipur as a Part C State.

Through a notification in the Gazette of India Extraordinary Part II, dated 20th September, 1951, the Government of India published the “The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) (Part C States) Order, 1951” with The Schedule Part VI - Manipur:

Throughout the State -
1. Any Kuki Tribe
2. Any Lushai Tribe
3. Any Naga Tribe.

The aforesaid Constitution Order 1951 left out Meithei tribe despite being a principal tribe recognized by the British Government of India before Manipur was merged with the Union of India in October, 1949. This denial for inclusion of Meithei in the of Scheduled Tribe list amounts to breach of Article VIII(C) of the Manipur Merger Agreement, 1949 which reads as under:

The Government of India also undertakes to make suitable provisions for the employment of Manipuris in the various branches of Public Services, and in every way encourage to join them. They also undertake to preserve various laws, customs and conventions prevailing in the State pertaining to the social, economic, and religious life of the people.

The Government of India has amended the list of Scheduled Tribes of Manipur a few times with insertion of many Naga tribes and many Kuki-Chin tribes other than the Meitei tribe.

The current list of Scheduled Tribes of Manipur is as under:

1. Aimol 13. Lamgang 25. Sukte
2. Anal 14. Any Mizo (Lushai) Tribes 26. Tangkhul
3. Angami 15. Maram 27. Thadou
4. Chiru 16. Maring 28. Vaiphei
5. Chothe 17. Mao 29. Zou
6. Gangte 18. Monsang 30. Poumai Naga
7. Hmar 19. Moyon 31. Tarao
8. Kabui, Inpui, Rongmei 20. Paite 32. Kharam
9. Kacha Naga, Liangmai, Zeme 21. Purum 33. Any Kuki Tribes
10. Koirao, Thangal 22. Ralte 34. Mate
11. Koireng 23. Sema
12. Kom 24. Simte

Missing of the name of Meithei in the list of Scheduled Tribe for more than 70 years i.e., since 1951, despite the very fact that it is also Kuki-Chin tribe, has caused terrible losses to the Meithei people as they have been deprived of all benefits and protection guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

This is obviously a share violation of the right to equality and right to life with dignity which are enshrined under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

* Prof. K. Yugindro Singh wrote this article for
The writer is Seniormost Professor of Manipur University Canchipur Imphal
and can be contacted at yugindro361(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 23 May 2023.

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