TODAY -

ST demand is alive and kicking : Need to reach out to all
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: March 05, 2024 -



It should be obvious to everyone.

The ST for Meiteis demand is alive and kicking, notwithstanding the totally false premise on which the infamous Tribal Solidarity March of May 3, 2023 was held ostensibly against the directive of the High Court of Manipur to send the report sought by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee (STDCM), Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union (MMTU), World Meetei Council (WMC), Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL) and others who back this call have more than made it clear that the demand still stands and it may just be a matter of time for this demand to be taken out on the streets and roads of Imphal.

So far the State Government has not uttered a single word on this particular demand nor on the report sought by the Centre back in 2013, and the fact that such a report has been sought by the Centre may not have come to the notice of the public if not for the unyielding voice raised by the champions of ST for Meiteis call.

It is thanks to the STDCM that The Sangai Express has also received a copy of the report sought by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and this is where questions should be raised on why the Congress Government back in 2013 slept over the matter and why the present BJP led Government is following this indifference.

There could be many factors, but the Government has still not explained its stand on the matter.

This is where so many things can be read into the silence of the Government and such a situation can only create rooms for conspiracy theory to fly thick and fast.

This is about the silence of the Government but the question of greater import here is whether the ST for Meiteis champions such as the STDCM, MMTU and WMC have tried in any way to reach out to the other indigenous group of people, the Nagas, to present the case of the Meiteis.

Not that it is the Nagas which has asked the report on the socio-economic conditions of the Meiteis and definitely it is not the Nagas or anyone else which will decide whether the Meiteis fit the bill to be tagged a Scheduled Tribe or not, but it never hurts to take everyone along as far as possible.

Accordingly it is also important to ask whether there are any section of people from amongst the Meiteis who may be urging the Government not to act on the report sought by the Centre back in 2013.

The fundamental point is, whether the ST for Meiteis advocates have reached out to anyone and tried to take everyone along with the idea of the Meiteis being tagged a Scheduled Tribe or not.

If yes, then it is fine, but if the answer is in the negative then it would help to start reaching out now, though it is rather late in the day.

That Meiteis need Constitutional protection is beyond arguments.

Competition in the job market, protection of land etc need to be looked beyond Manipur.

As a young man put it while sharing his ideas on the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST category of the Constitution of India, the primary objective of reservation for the STs is to bring them into the National mainstream.

Are the Meiteis in the mainstream by any standard ?

The answer would be clear to anyone who understands how a Meitei feels or more importantly is made to feel once he or she steps out of the North East zone.

As stated in an earlier commentary in this column, it is with a reason why categorising five communities of Assam as STs is one of the major points laid down by the pro-talk group of the ULFA in its negotiations with the Government of India and why the Union Home Ministry has agreed to this point.

ST status for the five communities, namely, Moran, Motak, Chutia, Koch-Rajbongshi and Tai-Ahom, will ensure land rights for the tribals, prevent alienation of the land and ensure greater representation of the indigenous folks in the Assam Assembly.

The line of argument here should be easy to understand and this cannot be to the disadvantage of any indigenous community of Manipur.

Why the Meiteis fulfil the criteria to be included in the ST category has been spelt out in this very column on more than one occasion, and perhaps it is because of this, that voices of opposition have been raised against any move to send the report sought by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Send the report and let Parliament decide should be the stand of any sane person.



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