ST demand for Meiteis hotting up Lining up public rally


To be sure the March 3 public rally lined up by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) will not be the last such instance to up the demand that the State Government send a recommendation to the Centre to grant ST status to the Meiteis. And to be sure this will not be the first time for the STDCM to take to the streets to highlight their stand and if the past is any indication then there will be opposition galore from some quarters. Already the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur has made its stand known and there has been a hot exchange of ideas and viewpoints between the student body and those who espouse by the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST category under the Constitution of India. Apart from ATSUM and other tribal bodies, there have also been opposition to the demand from amongst the Meitei community and this is where the interesting point lies. On whose side is the State Government standing, is the natural question that follows. Or does it have any stand on the issue ? This is important for a recommendation to the Centre has to be first sent by the State Government and how the Centre respond to the petition will decide the question of whether the Meiteis should be included in the ST list or not. As noted here in earlier commentaries, it is not ATSUM or the Meiteis who are against the ST demand who will decide whether the Meiteis should be included in the ST list or not, but the Centre. Of course it stands, that before the Centre acts, it has to first receive a proposal from the State Government and this is where the question, where Imphal stands becomes important.
State Government central to it all then, at least in setting the ball rolling. Obvious that the first point the STDCM should target is then the State Government. Likewise the groups that stand at the other end of the ST demand should also approach the State Government to lay down their points. Constitutional protection, this is central to the demand for the ST status as laid down by the STDCM. To be sure there will be arguments on whether the Meiteis need Constitutional protection or not, but then again it is not those who are engaged in the argument who will ultimately decide but the Government of India. The onus then is for either side to prepare their respective cases minutely and forward them to the Centre. Already the ST community in Assam is understood to have raised objection to the decision of the Centre to grant ST status to six communities in Assam-the Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Moran, Matak, Tai Ahom and Tea Tribes. Despite the objection, the decision of the Centre would have come as a major booster to the STDCM and all those who stand by the idea that the Meiteis too should be granted ST status. It is along this line that the Pan Meitei Convention recently met former Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam at New Delhi and strongly put forward the argument that the Meiteis need to be included in the ST list. That the former Deputy Chief Minister was also urged to use his influence and see if he could reach out to the tribal bodies not to oppose the demand is significant. Perhaps this was the first time that the ST proponents did reach out to a public figure of the tribals. Will be interesting to see if any political party will use this in their campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.

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