TODAY -

Demand for ST tag: Let the competent authority decide
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: January 30, 2024 -



The dramatic decline from 60 per cent in 1971 to just 44 per cent in 2011 will have serious socio-economic and political implications.

This is indeed a tectonic change in the demography of Manipur as pointed out by the World Meetei Council or WMC.

If the WMC’s assertion that another community has overtaken the indigenous Naga community as the second largest community in Manipur is true, it is a very alarming revelation which will have far-reaching consequences.

Comprising just 44 per cent of the total population of Manipur, Meiteis no longer enjoy the majority it once did.

With the population of one particularly community and their cognate tribes rising exponentially, the indigenous Meitei and Naga communities may soon be reduced to minorities in their own homeland.

This is indeed a wake-up call to all stakeholders. Given the fast changing demography of Manipur, the popular demand for enlistment of Meitei in the Scheduled Tribe category merits full attention and appropriate, urgent actions from the authorities.

There is some truth in the WMC’s assertion that the fate of 15 lakh odd Meiteis lies in the hands of the Chief Minister because the Government of India or more precisely the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes can act only when the state government sends the necessary recommendation along with the requisite documents.

Interestingly, it was Chief Minister N Biren who stated on the floor of the Manipur Legislative Assembly in March 2019 that the growing fear among Meitei community of possible complete marginalization in near future is genuine and their demand for granting Schedule Tribe status is quite reasonable.

The Chief Minister also announced that the state government will act soon and positively but alas nothing has come out of the Chief Minister’s announcement so far.

The basic arguments which are driving the campaign for inclusion of the Meitei community in ST list are; the community constitutes a microscopic minority of the vast multitude of Indian population and their tiny living space has been shrinking day by day in the absence of a constitutional safeguard, Meitei culture and identity have been rendered extremely vulnerable to the all pervasive juggernaut of globalization and incessant influx from different directions and they (Meitei) are fast losing the status of being the majority community in Manipur.

The counter arguments run like this; Meiteis are a relatively advanced community, there was a glorious Meitei kingdom and they have a refined culture with a language and script of their own.

But a thorough analysis will reveal that the relative advancement of Meitei community over other communities of the state is a rather misplaced notion in this age of globalization.

As for the glorious Meitei kingdom, it is a thing of the past. If we must talk about the so called refined Meitei culture, it is being bombarded by foreign cultural elements from all directions.

Upholding one’s culture and identity becomes a serious challenge when a community is degraded economically and politically.

It becomes impossible to protect one’s identity if his/her community’s living space is shrinking.

This is exactly what is happening to the Meitei community who inhabits the Imphal Valley which is just around 2300 Sq Kms.

Whereas the Meiteis are prohibited from buying land in the hill districts, everyone, both local people and non-local people can buy land and settle in any part of the Imphal Valley.

This is a grave injustice.

If a consensus can be reached on the issue of granting ST status to Meiteis, the issue will have its solution then and there.

Even if the desired consensus remains elusive, the state government can throw the ball to the government of India’s court by sending the necessary recommendation along with the requisite documents.

After all, it is the Government of India which can/will decide the issue.



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