ATSUM lines up protests against ST demand of STDCM

Newmai News Network
IMPHAL, Jan 28 : In protest against the “agendas” of the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM), the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) will hold sit-in-protests and rallies in the hill districts of Manipur on January 29 (Tuesday). The ATSUM will protest under the theme, “Manipur tribal people mass protest against the STDCM demand for inclusion of Meiteis/Meeteis in the Scheduled Tribe category”.
Some of the slogans which will be used in Tuesday’s protests are : “We oppose all the agenda of STDCM tooth and nail”, “Meiteis’ ST demand will vitiate the hill-valley relationship”, “Government of Manipur should proceed with caution lest it sparks off conflagration”, etc, etc. The protests will be organized in every hill district by the respective units of ATSUM.
Meanwhile, in a statement made available to Newmai News Network tonight, ATSUM reiterated its “unequivocal stance” on the demand of the STDCM for the recognition/inclusion of Meitei community in the ST fold. The ATSUM claimed that it had, for the umpteen times in the past enunciated that it will oppose the demand tooth and nail, and that, “this remains true in the present nor will we deviate from it in the future”.
The apex tribal student body said that as the demand is opposed across -the-board by the tribal people of Manipur the State Government should keep in mind the “sensitivity of the situation and proceed with extreme caution lest it invites massive retaliation from the hill people”. Urging the Government of Manipur to treat the matter seriously and not come to any hasty decision in favour of the STDCM’s demand, ATSUM cautioned that any attempt made on the part of the State Government to either prop up the demand or go against the collective stance of the tribal people will invite serious repercussion. “The State Government should maintain status quo on this issue and side with none as the matter is beyond its domain,” it further cautioned.
Issuing strictures to all tribal Ministers, Hill Areas Committee (HAC) and legislators not to partake in any meeting or discussions held in this regard, the ATSUM urged them to boycott the proposed meeting to be held with the STDCM on January 30 “since the demand is at loggerheads with the collective stance of the tribal people residing in Manipur”. It added that any attempt on the part of any tribal individual to go against the collective will and wishes of the people on this issue will be met with hostility.
“The STDCM should always commit to its mind that this contentious issue has the potential to spark a conflagration as the battle-lines are clearly drawn vis-a-vis the tribal people and that of the valley. Just one matchstick is enough to ignite the spark to a gigantic fire. The aftermath of the PMP Bill should remain as a grim reminder to one and all,” the ATSUM further reminded.
The tribal student body added that, one cannot help but wonder why one of the most advanced communities in India socially, economically, culturally and academically are hell-bent on demeaning their lofty status.
“With exception of the Meitei Brahmins, majority of the Meitei community belong to the lofty position of the Kshatriya hierarchy. So if a community which occupies the highest status of the Hindu social stratification comes up with the most retrograde demand for inclusion in the ST category then one can expect that the very fabric of Hinduism itself will be negatively impacted. This will open a floodgate of demand from other higher castes in the mainland once the precedent is set. And the thought of an ST Brahmin leaves one fumbling for an answer,” the ATSUM pointed out.
According to the tribal apex student body, the contention that Meiteis are not Hindus but with their own indigenous religion is quite contrary to that of Hinduism and has got their own distinct deities and rituals which is assiduously promoted by the proponents holds little water as the fact remains that HIndu culture and ethos have firmly carved a niche in the Meitei society and has become an inherent part of the Meitei culture. It added that the celebration of Hindu festivals with pomp and fervour, observation of Hindu rituals during marriage, death, child christening and other household rituals “clearly demonstrate that Hinduism is still a reality among the Meitei society and it will remain firm”.
The ATSUM said that, for a people that prided itself of having more than two thousand years of “unbroken chain of civilization under the splendour of the Ningthouja dynasty ever since the coronation of Pakhangba in 33 AD, unprecedented in the history of mankind and that race presently claiming for inclusion in the ST category is akin to asking to be a beggar”.
According to the apex tribal student body in Manipur, endowment with two historical chronicles, the presence of Meitei script, exploits of the Meitei kings extending their reach to the expanses of Myanmar, China, Cachar, Ahom, Sylhet and other neighbouring States, establishment of diplomatic and trade relationship with the mighty British, signing internationally recognised treaties with the erstwhile Burma and Great Britain etc. are all indicators of the fact that Meiteis had enjoyed millenniums of advanced society and civilization.
“In the fitness of things it will be advisable for the Meitei people to reflect back to the past grandeur and greatness their progenitors had enjoyed, which sadly had eluded the tribal people even when civilization had reached its zenith, live with it and move forward in parity instead of going for regressive steps like demotion to ST status and be equated as social pariah,” the ATSUM added.
It finally stated that, being categorised among “this demeaning category of ST is not easy, rather the social stigma, humiliation and excommunication that we are made to endure and to be branded as uncouth, uncivilized and being treated with utter contempt and disdain is not a thing we would encourage anybody to jump.”

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