Meitei ST categorisation demand and the opposition
Lt Col Laishram Lokendra Singh (Retd)
We are going through the coronavirus pandemic. A more infectious mutant Omicron is on its way. The third wave is expected to peak in February 2022. Advisories are galore to get vaccinated to stay safe from this pandemic. In Manipur only 66% for the first dose and 45% for the second dose have reportedly been administered. Despite best of efforts from all quarters to get vaccinated to fight this pandemic, there is still a section of people who are opposed to this vaccination drive, not openly though and have quietly refrained from taking the shot. If you ask them why, they will come up with their own opinion, belief, and some unscientific theory of how this vaccination will have long term damaging effect on the human immune system, and ....blah, blah, blah. No amount of scientific, sensible talk will change their thinking.
That is the beauty of democracy. We have the right to have our own opinion, belief, freedom of speech to oppose any issue. So when a section of the people in Manipur oppose Meitei ST categorisation demand we must welcome such opposition because it is a very serious issue. It is concerned with the very survival of the Yelhoumee Meitei community in their own ancestral land in Manipur.
Majority of Meiteis are aware of the catastrophic demographic change taking place in the non-hill areas of Manipur and the gradual marginalisation of Meiteis. As per 1951 census report population of Meitei was around 59% and that of the 2011 census Meitei population is about 44%. This means Meiteis are no longer the majority community in Manipur. What will be the further dip as per the present 2021 census only time will tell.
Most Meiteis are concerned that if there is no Constitutional safeguard of their so called Meitei's land and if there is no protection of their Assembly Constituency as reserved Constituency in similar manner as that of their brethren in the hill areas of Manipur then the future of their children and their children's children will be doomed. In other words Meiteis with their proud 2000 years of history will be erased from their natural habitat of Manipur in the near future.
The only viable Constitutional safeguard as it exists today is categorisation of Meitei as ST as per Constitution Article 342(1). This has been widely understood and accepted by majority of Meiteis.
Then who is opposing this people's movement? There are those who have no idea of what is Constitution and who have no clue of Article 342(1). This category of Meiteis will say-Hao Onba (convert to Hao) ? However they tend to understand once told that one cannot convert to ST but have to be enlisted as per relevant Government records and norms, and Meiteis fulfill the criteria.
Then there are individuals who have been perhaps briefed to oppose and argue within fixed parameters with limited vision. And they are generally known as bonded pseudo intelectuals. Interestingly there used to be people who perhaps believed that they own the Meiteis and only they have the absolute right and previledge to speak for Meiteis. Hence they would question the locus standi of the people spearheading the movement. However with the movement catching up momentum steadily this category of people have thankfully retreated to the back ground.
And finally there is a handful of elite Meiteis who go about exuding their inflated egos, who believe they have nothing to gain by categorisation of Meitei as ST and who are in total disconnect with the wants, desires and future needs of the Meitei masses.
Point is it does not matter where the opposition comes from. There should be opposition. After all we are in a democratic society. There can never be a consensus on any issue. Someone or the other will always be there to oppose an issue. What is regrettable however is that the number of people opposing the movement for categorisation of Meitei as ST is diminishing by the day. These people must endeavour to keep their flock together intact at all cost and not allow it to dwindle.
Disappointed over the inaction of the State Government, Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL) and World Meetei Council (WMC) recently joined the fray raising the pitch of the demand. The longer the State Government dithers in taking an appropriate action on the demand, the more such organisations will mushroom. It will be prudent for the Manipur Govt to take a call on the demand at the earliest to avoid any future unwanted social turmoil.