TODAY -

Meitei 'Tribal', almost ST now

Free Thinker *



Meiteis, the majority community of Manipur, were once Maharajas, Rajas, General, and OBC; and now they are 'tribal', sliding down in the human civilization index. This is true. It happens to other civilizations too. Civilization declines and disseminates.

Look at the Greeks once they were extremely powerful - now they deserve protection and financial support. At the moment they are being funded by the EU and other countries for survival. Meiteis had an empire spreading from Brahmaputra to Irrawaddy (and sometimes beyond). Those days Meiteis were great, powerful, and invincible. Such periods in history were temporary - didn't last long.

When they were mighty and powerful, they played havoc sporadically in the region from Takhel (Tripura) to Khaki (China border) and from Ahom (Assam ) to Awa (Burma). Whether the Government of India or the Government of Manipur agrees or not, Majority Meiteis are now claiming themselves to be 'tribal'.

Amongst them are Meitei Vaisnavites , Meitei Sanamahis , Meitei Pangans, Meitei Bamons and Meitei Christians. There is no controversy about it. A few remaining feel that they are still Kings and Generals - let them. In a democracy, the majority carries the vote/ decision. Some fortunate few Meiteis Lois are already in the Dalit category as SC. Thank God, at least Meiteis can breathe through them.

Brothers and Sisters in the Hills (who are already STs) do think that Meiteis are quite advanced and progressive and so they can't be tribal Meiteis may be grateful to them - at least they project and promote Meiteis as an advanced community. In fact, Meiteis were advanced but in the last 20 years or so they have become more tribal and exotic.

If I say, I am poor. How can you object to that? You can't say that I am rich. Then who is going to decide? There must be a system to define rich or poor.

Who is below the poverty line and who is above it? The government of India has a yardstick to do so. But the criteria keep changing according to the conveniences of the dispensation.

Meiteis' demand for ST status might have been ignored or rejected in 1982 or 2001. However, their deterioration in all spheres of life is quite visible. They were General in 1950 then became OBC in the 1990s and are now sliding down the social graph. Many are very unhappy about it but what to do - ups and downs is a natural process.

In the last 20 years, Meiteis have become 'tribes' - they themselves feel so - more intensely in the last 12 years. At present, the yardstick followed for identifying a group of people as Schedule Tribe are - indicative of primitive traits, shyness to contact with other large communities, geographical isolation and. backwardness. This is the existing GoI criteria since 2017.

Meiteis' primitive traits have been exhibited in the last six months side by side with Kuki brothers. Shyness to contact with the outside communities - their boycott culture of visitors and the Inner line permit system - proves it. At this juncture their geographical isolation is full and complete -surrounded by hills - hill tribes are not allowing them to go through the hills.

Airplanes are their only means of transport. Backwardness is proven beyond doubt as they themselves have started calling themselves `tribals'. For deciding the claims to be in the ST list there is a set procedure of GoI (framed in 1999 and amended in 2002.)

Accordingly, only those proposals which have been recommended by the States can be processed further. Later it has to be endorsed by the Registrar General of India (RGI) and the National Commission for Schedule Tribes. After that, the matter will go to the Home Ministry - once the ministry agrees the proposal shall be brought to Cabinet for approval.

Once it is approved by the Cabinet the matter is sent to the Law Ministry for a draft legislation ( Bill for Constitution Amendment). When the draft is ready -it is up to the Gov-ernment to bring the Bill in Parliament for passing. Once it is passed, the President of Bharat has to give her assent. Then the Act is operationalized by issuing the same in the Gazette.

Those people who are really working hard for ST status must know where to go and whom to deal with. Competent authority may be requested to prepare a relevant cabinet memo and get it approved by the State cabinet. Cabinet ministers must be convinced accordingly. Approach the CS and convince him to put in the next Cabinet memorandum.

Most importantly get the blessings from the CM - who now desperately requires your support. Don't be afraid, the majority of people are behind you. Do it by any means but legitimately and peacefully.

If the CM wants to play safe, let a resolution (private or government) be passed in the Assembly and the same may be adopted by the Cabinet (by majority) and sent to the Union Home Minister.

Once Shah ji says 'yes' the remain-ing procedures are just a formality. Strike when the iron is hot and on the anvil. The General Election is knocking at the door. Others are also bargaining for other things. Long live Manipur.


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on November 23 2023.



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