Reiterating ST status demand for Meiteis:
Oppositions to the call
Will the BJP led Government at Imphal be amenable to the proposal of the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) that a recommendation be sent to the Centre to include the Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India or will it see more merit in the stand of the various tribal bodies that the demand is unjustified ? More significantly will it stand by the argument from within the Meitei community that the Meiteis cannot and should not be ‘reduced’ to the status of a tribal group ? Tough to answer and this is exactly the dilemma that the State Government will find itself if and when the demand is given more thrust by the STDCM in the days to come. That the issue was never dead is something known to all and at best the STDCM had laid low just for the time being perhaps studying when best to raise the ST status demand and maybe take to the streets. Not the first time that the banner of ST status for the Meiteis has been raised and as long as the issue is kept unresolved, the issue will be raised again and again. This much is a given and a lot will depend on how the State Government responds to the situation. As noted in earlier commentaries here, STDCM must have surely received a shot in the arm after the Union Cabinet decided to grant ST status to six communities of Assam, namely Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Tea Tribes, Moran and Matak. It is towards this end that the Rajya Sabha earlier this year passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
It is also significant to note that the STDCM chose to raise the ST for Meiteis banner during the observance function of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People held at Lamyanba Shanglen on August 18. Striking the right note, if one may add, for ‘indigenous people’ is the catchword of everyone, cutting across the ST for Meiteis divide. It is early days yet, but one can still remember the series of debate that was carried in The Sangai Express between tribal organisations, particularly the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) and STDCM not so long back. The debate was interesting and must have given insights to the readers who followed the verbal exchange minutely. Thankfully the debate did not get reduced to an exercise of punching below the belt, but as things stand right now, there is nothing much to suggest that either side has been able to convince the other side. Now that STDCM has once again raised the ST status for Meiteis, one may expect those standing at the other end of the divide to raise their voice of opposition. However it should be clear to all that it is not the STDCM, not ATSUM and not even the State Government which will decide whether Meiteis should be given the ST status or not, but the Centre. This is a fact that should not be lost on anyone even as difference of opinion on the issue may be articulated.