ST demand : Gearing up for stir
Issues before Govt
The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur is under the firm belief that the Meitei community fulfils the need to come under the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India and this is obviously one primary reason why it has seen red over the ‘failure’ of the State Government to send the needed recommendations to the Centre to include the Meiteis in the ST list. And the STDCM has topped this off with the ultimatum that since no positive response has been forthcoming from the side of the Government, it would be constrained to launch a series of agitation from March 20. Still too early to say how the agitation will proceed, but one can expect the STDCM to pull no punches in launching different modes of stir which may not be comfortable for the Government. It is also still unclear how well the public would respond to the call to pile the pressure on the Government to send the needed recommendations, but what can be said with a degree of certainty is that the STDCM will not pussyfoot the issue. How will the State Government respond ? How will the people respond ? Will the STDCM be able to take all the Meiteis along with the demand ? How about the existing tribal groups of Manipur, particularly student organisations such as the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) ? Will the STDCM be able to convince all that the ST tag for the Meiteis will not compromise with the interests of the present tribal groups ? More importantly how well prepared is the STDCM to put their points before the State Government so that a recommendation, deemed to be meritorious, can be submitted to the Centre ? These are all questions at the moment, but already the people of Manipur have seen how not all the Meiteis are taken in by the idea that the community should come under the ST tag. Likewise the tribal groups, particularly ATSUM is against the proposal that the Meiteis too should be included in the ST list of the Constitution.
It is taking along these disparate groups that will perhaps prove to be the toughest part for the STDCM. On the other hand, even if there are opposing voices, how does it convince the State Government that the case of the Meiteis is fit enough to be recommended for the ST tag ? This is where it will become interesting. The STDCM is convinced that the Meiteis as a community do fulfil the need to come under the ST list and this should mean that the Meiteis have their own distinctive culture, have primitive traits, are geographically isolated, are shy to come into contact with the outside world and are backward. These are the broad traits laid down by the Centre to club a community under the ST tag besides being socially, economically and educationally backward. These are the traits that may be highlighted to the Centre if and when the State Government decides to forward the demand of the STDCM to include the Meiteis in the ST list. It should also be kept in mind that it is not only the STDCM and its interest which the State Government has to contend with while dealing with the ST tag for Meiteis issue, but the others too who do not see eye to eye with the STDCM. The difficulty of the State Government should also be understood but yet at the same it is important that it spells out why it has not sent the recommendations till date. At the moment, much more homework may need to be done to take everyone along with the idea of bringing the Meiteis under the ST tag but ultimately what would be of utmost importance is to present a strong case before the Centre.