Raging debate over ST demand Divide over ST demand

Not sensible to equate the question of survival of the Meitei people with the question of losing some advantage of the hill people. This is a line of thought espoused by the Pan Meetei Convention (PMC) in the backdrop of the strong opposition raised by some tribal organisations to the demand of the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur that the Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution of India. The debate will continue, it seems but the fact is, it is not the State Government, not PMC, STDCM or any of the hill based organisations which will decide whether the Meiteis should be included in the ST list or not but the Centre. And remember the State Government is yet to recommend to the Centre that the Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution. However it is clear where the State Government stands on the issue, if one takes into consideration what Chief Minister N Biren had to say on the floor of the House during the just concluded Assembly session. Just 24 hours after the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur staged one of the bigger rallies in recent times, Chief Minister N Biren took it upon himself to declare on the floor of the Assembly that the ST status demand is reasonable and qualified this observation with the assurance that the State Government will act upon it soon. The point that stands out here is the fact that the State Government is yet to act on the long standing demand of the STDCM that a recommendation be sent to the Centre to include the Meiteis in the ST list. So State Government yet to act on this and already debate over the issue is intensifying and looks set to be more intense in the coming days.
This is where the STDCM will need to reach out to the hills and see if the hill based organisations can be taken along with them. Dialogue is obviously the only way forward and this is where no one should take a confrontationist stand. On the other hand, the STDCM too will need to reach out to the section of Meitei people who do not see eye to eye with it on the demand. Carrying all along with their demand is then the need of the hour. Both sides will have their own version over the issue and this is where dialogue and interaction becomes necessary. The stand of the STDCM and PMC must have also been bolstered by the fact that the Centre recently announced that six communities of Assam will be granted ST status and much like here, some tribal groups of Assam have also raised opposition to the decision of the Centre. Whatever the case, care should be taken to ensure that the ST demand issue does not become yet another dividing point between communities. Manipur has had enough of the hill and valley divide and no one would like to see another round of confrontation over an issue in which the final say will lie with the Centre. Try to understand each other’s point of view and just do not impose one’s way of looking at things. This should be the guideline for all on either side of the ST demand.

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