Ongoing campaign for ST status Voices of opposition

From academicians to politicians and doctors, the campaign is on. Remains to be seen how things will unfold in the coming days, but to be sure there seems to be quite a large number of eminent personalities who have backed the demand raised by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM), that the Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution of India. The hurdles before the STDCM can be imagined, for it is not only about convincing the State Government to present their case before the Centre but also the voices of opposition that have come from certain quarters. One obviously is the strong stand adopted by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur to the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution. The war of words of rather the intense debate that ensued between some leaders of ATSUM and a certain gentleman and which were all carried as articles in the English edition of The Sangai Express some time back underlines the voice of opposition to the demand raised by the STDCM. The debate is such that even an elderly tribal leader who seemed to have backed the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST list had to dilute his stand with a ‘clarification’ which was carried in this newspaper some days back. Apart from the tribal organisations, it is also worth noting that opposition first came from amongst the Meiteis, with again many eminent personalities opposing the demand that the Meiteis come under the ST tag. Each side may have their own merits and as stated earlier in this column, The Sangai Express will not state its stand here for there are others on either side who are better qualified to lay down their respective points.
From general/OBC category to ST status and it is not only the STDCM which is demanding ST status for a particularly community, but also six groups in Assam. Significantly Prime Minister Narendra Modi had acknowledged the demand raised by the six communities in Assam, in the run up to the Lok Sabha election some time in 2014. Like in Manipur, in Assam too the ST status demand raised by the Ahoms, Koch-Rajbangshis, Morans, Mataks, Chutiyas and Adivasis or tea tribes, was strongly opposed by the existing tribal groups of Assam and the opposition primarily centred around job quota and other benefits that STs receive from the Government. In Manipur nothing much explicit has been stated with regard to the job quota, but many have voiced the opinion that the Meiteis too need some sort of Constitutional protection in the face of the growing need to protect the land of the indigenous people and their resources. With the campaign still on and with no let up in the voice of opposition, the coming days can be stormy and it will be interesting to see how the BJP led Government deals with the situation. What stand can the State Government take ? This is a tough call to take and this is where the political acumen of the people at the helm of power will be tested. Moreover it remains to be seen how the STDCM manage to take the tribal organisations along with their stand.

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