TODAY -

If them then why not the Meiteis ? ST for Meitei call
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: February 14, 2024 -



The pro-talk group of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is clear that granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to five communities of Assam will help save Assam.

The greater objective behind this move is to keep the illegally settled Bangladeshis at bay.

The argument is simple enough and as reported in a National daily sometime in July last year ST status will ensure land rights for the communities, prevent alienation of land, not to talk about reserved seats in the Assembly of Assam.

As widely reported earlier, the five communities are Moran, Matak, Chutia, Koch-Rajbongshi and Tai-Ahom, and one is left wondering whether the Meiteis are so much more advanced than these five communities that so many objections should be raised to the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution of India.

Objections, and as long as the objections fall within the realm of debates and discussions then it should be acceptable to everyone, but when this is used as an alibi to pursue something very dangerous, then it is time to call the bluff.

It is on this fabricated premise that the Tribal Solidarity Rally of May 3, 2023 and which kicked off the violent clash between the Meiteis and the Kukis, was staged and the farce of it all should be clear to all. Coming back to the objections and the debates it has kicked off, it should also be clear to everyone that violence has never ever been associated with the movement to demand ST status for Meiteis.

Not when the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, the World Meetei Council, Meetei/Meitei Tribe Union and others raised the call to include the Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution of India and this is primarily the reason why The Sangai Express finds it totally unacceptable to toe the line that the Tribal Solidarity Rally was staged against the ST for Meiteis demand.

The ruling of the High Court of Manipur was also just a directive to the State Government to send the report to the Centre and nothing more and as argued many times in this column, it is not the job of the Judiciary to decide whether the Meiteis should be granted ST status or not, but Parliament.

This is where one is left wondering why such a hue and cry should have been raised against the directive of the High Court to the Government of Manipur.

Isn’t the opposition to the directive of the High Court enough evidence that the Meiteis fulfil the criteria to be included in the ST list of the Constitution of India ?

Let there be debates and discussions and The Sangai Express has been willingly carrying the diverse viewpoints of different personalities on the said topic.

Earlier it was a debate between the World Meetei Council and some members of the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) and soon other personalities too jumped into the debate, each detailing their own points.

Such debates are always welcome for it gives more insights to the people but let it be clear to all that ST categorisation is the mantra to ensure a level playing field for everyone.

It is also time to look beyond Manipur and understand the competition in the job market in the all India context.

Just opposing the case of the Meiteis while turning a blind eye to other cases, such as the most recent move to grant ST status to six communities of Assam, sounds like a farce, a pathetic farce that will fool no one.

For the State of Manipur, internal arrangements can always be made, just as the Government of Nagaland has come up with job reservations based on socio-economic status of each tribe.

The same approach can and should be applied when it comes to State Government jobs here.

Likewise a model for land reservation within Manipur can be explored and implemented.

That Meiteis fulfil all the criteria to be tagged a Scheduled Tribe has been spelt out here on more than one occasion with experts and knowledgeable folks having chipped in with their bit.

Another interesting development has been the call and the opinion sought from the State Government by the Centre to delist the Kuki-Zos from the ST list of the Constitution on the ground that they are not indigenous to the land.

That they are not indigenous to the place but are refugees is a point which has been laid down in black and white by a certain Mr Paolienlal Haokip in a publication of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies way back on May 23, 2002, under the heading ‘Suffering in oblivion : Burmese refugees in North East Region of India.’



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