The recent resurged demand for ST status of Meiteis communities has made biggest media coverage. Featuring on “ISTV gi Ayuksida on 8 March 2019” a prominent professor, Shri Ch. Priyorajan, a known anti-ST protagonist, made comments which are not only factual incorrect but also laughable. A person who apparently must have prominently shaped the blue prints of the ILP issue, he appears to be skeptical that the cause which he stood for now has lost its shine that it used be in eyes of public.
The Professor asserts that three major groups – STDC, PPCM who spearheads the ILP and the Tribal bodies need to discussion the issue. As a close observer of ST issue, STDC has made many attempts for discussion.
The stand of Tribal bodies against the demand is that Meiteis do not fit the criteria conditions and interest of the Tribals could be harmed. Even when the CAB issue was in its heights, when raising any issue other than CAB was unethical, when the whole North-East needs to be united against CAB, ATSUM for reasons known only to them choose to organize sit-in-protest against the ST demand. CAB was a non-issue for them, perhaps reasonably protected as they are as ST. For them, their No is a No and nothing else.
Reasons for PPCM against ST demand is not clear. All we know is, they have petitioned once or twice to the CM against the Demand. It is another thing the CM has admitted on the floor of the House that ST Demand is reasonable. When the ILP issue was in its peak, raising the ST issue was termed as a spoilt sport, done deliberately to divert the ILP issue. As long the ILP issue was in rage, STDC choose to go slow and we, the public as supporter of both ILP & ST demand appreciated the statesmanship of STDC. Forget dialogue, skirmish and show-of-strength is a method more adopted by many anti-ST campaigners.
Some individuals went so low below the probity line of dignified discussion and even called STDC Indian Agents. Yet the sensible Professor who now champions for a dignified discussion not so much spoke a word against it. It is another thing that Shri L. Dhanabir, another prominent anti-ST protagonist recently said that STDC are also patriots and admitted that the majority of people are with the STDC and their aspiration may need to be fulfilled, as cent per cent agreement on any issue is not possible.
The Professor goes on to rebuke the sudden call of bandh if the Government fails to send the Recommendation by 6 March. It would had been more appropriate had STDC pressurized the Government to prepare the Ethnography Report & Socio-Economic Survey. The Professor seems to be disconnected to the happenings of this Demand.
It is not first time the issue was discussed in the Assembly, nor was this the first of such massive rally. Since 2012, in multiple discussions with the Government, STDC has been requesting for the Reports. The Professor should be well aware of this. If not, he was not qualified to talk on the issue and if yes, he has misled the public.
Within STDC the sane opinion to avoid any public disturbances is increasingly under pressure for a violent approach because that is only voice which the Government would hear. Not single organization has ever existed in Manipur who silently tolerated inaction of the Government for so long. In contrast, on the ILP issue which burned Manipur for years, the Professor who now abhors bandhs so much did not come out as cynically as he is doing now. Double standards are part of human traits and the Professor would not be immune to this.
During the discussion the Professor committed a hara-kiri. On the issue of Central Govt.’s instruction of not sending the Recommendation, the Professor said it was not a case where the Central Govt “asked to send the Recommendation”. All the Central Govt. communicated was that “such Recommendation has not been received”. Thus, the Professor so argues, the STDC had misled the public. Spoken so emphatically even without batting an eyelid. No saint has preached a sermon in such holier-than-thou attitude the way the good Professor spoke.
Going into details of a rebuttal is not necessary except for re-producing the exact wordings of what the Ministry of Tribal Affairs wrote to Govt. of Manipur in 29 May 2013 – “ It is requested that specific recommendations along with the latest socio-economic survey and ethnographic report by an organization of repute be furnished to this Ministry for consideration of the proposal for inclusion of ‘Meitei/Meetei’ community in the ST list of Manipur ” . Naturally, readers will not be required of a Meiteilon translation on which the good Professor scored a self goal.
To be fair to the respected Professor, he has made some very good suggestions. First, the Govt. of Manipur needs to prepare the Reports after facilitating discussion of all concerned. Second, nobody should take things in their hands for it is the Govt. of India who will be the decision-maker and arbitrator to this. The Professor seems to be concerned the issue may divide Manipur more.
At this juncture, our Tribals need to realize that ST demand is more of protection of Meiteis rather than anything else. It has been amply made clear that this is not going to affect our Tribals in anyway. All for one, one for all.