Opposing ST demand of STDCM Thorny path ahead


The funny part is, it is not the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) and its associate members which will decide whether the Meiteis/Meeteis should be granted Scheduled Tribe status or not. It is not the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) either which will decide the matter. It is not even the State Government which will have the final say. Yet ATSUM and STDCM are pitched against each other on whether the Meiteis/ Meeteis should be included in the ST list or not—the sit-in protests and rallies at the hill districts being a case in point. This is not the first time that ATSUM has come out openly against the demand of STDCM and the verbal debate that raged on for days in The Sangai Express between ATSUM and those who believe that the Meiteis/Meeteis should be included in the ST list some time back is testimony of where the student body stands. In as much as ATSUM is not the final authority to decide whether the Meiteis/Meeteis should be included in the ST list or not, it has all the right to oppose the demand in as much as the STDCM has all the right to demand that the Meiteis/Meeteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution of India. This much must be clear to all those standing on either side of the ST for Meiteis demand. It is not the case of The Sangai Express to say whether the Meiteis/Meeteis should be granted ST status or not, but remember the Centre has already announced that six communities of Assam-the Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Chutiya, Matak, Moran and the 36 Tea Tribes of Assam would be granted ST status.
Significant to note that in Assam too, the move of the Centre to grant ST status to these six communities has been opposed by the tribals of Assam with the Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations of Assam (CCTOA) leading from the front. What makes the situation here more peculiar is the fact that it is not only ATSUM or other tribal bodies which are against the demand of the STDCM but also from amongst the Meitei community too. Remember how some student bodies and civil society organisations had come out opposing the demand of the STDCM some time back. All indications that not everything will be smooth sailing for the STDCM in its quest to get the Meiteis/Meeteis included in the ST list of the Constitution. Moreover it still remains to be seen how the State Government will proceed with the demand raised by the STDCM. What is the stand of the State Government over the demand of the STDCM ? Is it in favour of the stand that the Meiteis/Meeteis should be included in the ST list or not ? Remember it is the State Government which should first send the recommendations to the Centre for the inclusion of the Meiteis/Meeteis in the ST list. Early days yet, but the coming days will certainly be interesting but yet at the same time it is important for all concerned to ensure that any stand off over the demand should not be seen and interpreted as a stand off between the Meteis (Those backing the ST status for Meiteis demand) and the tribals of Manipur.

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