Rallying around ST demand for Meiteis Need to take all along


Not the first rally organised to up the demand that the Meiteis be included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India and if the past and the turn out is any indication this will not be the last either. More than obvious that Chief Minister N Biren and the BJP led Government at Imphal will need to do more than just give verbal assurances that a recommendation will be sent to the Centre to include the Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution. What however may just hold back the State Government from going ahead with recommending the same may be the voice of opposition raised by some sections from the hills of Manipur, notably by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur. Top this off with the opposition to the demand from amongst the Meitei community themselves and this is where the biggest headache of the State Government may lie. It should however be not forgotten that it is not ATSUM nor those opposed to the ST demand from amongst the Meiteis that will decide whether the Meiteis should be given ST status but the Centre. A point which has already been laid down here on more than one occasion. The voice of opposition from amongst the Meitei community seems to have quietened down, but there is no guarantee that the voice of opposition will not be raised in the coming days. Here is hoping that this does not lead to another series of stand off amongst the Meitei community. As to the opposition raised by the hill people, STDCM has more than made it clear that some mechanism may be worked out with respect to Manipur so that the interests of all communities are respected.
This is where it becomes imperative for the STDCM to reach out to all sections of the people and earn their confidence that in seeking ST status for the Meiteis, the interests of other communities will not be compromised. It also needs to reach out to the section of the Meiteis not to oppose their demand for ST status. The task ahead is certainly not easy for it would need to convince all the opposition parties that the interests of none would be hurt. How the BJP led State Government respond to the demand is yet to be seen, but remember the stand of the STDCM must have been bolstered by the fact that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had recently announced that six communities in Assam would be included in the ST list. This is where it can draw a line from Assam and put forth the argument that if the six communities in Assam can be included in the ST list, there is no reason not to include the Meiteis in the ST list too. This line of argument may also be used to convince the hill people of Manipur and those amongst the Meitei community who do not see eye to eye with the ST demand of the STDCM. Inner Line Permit System, the Manipur University crisis, Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and now the ST status demand for the Meiteis and clearly the BJP led Government at Imphal has been trundling from one issue to the other and it may not be long when it has to deal with the situation when the final agreement is inked between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India. Before or after the Lok Sabha elections, it does not matter, but the coming days can certainly be stormy.

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