MMAB backs ST status demand

By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, Sep 13 : The Manipuri Meitei Association Bangalore (MMAB) on behalf of the Meetei/Meitei diaspora based in Bengaluru has today submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister praying to do the needful for inclusion of ethnic Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list and for complete protection of valley districts in Manipur like any scheduled lands under Sixth Schedule of Constitution of India.
MMAB in its 7 point memorandum noted that Meetei/Meitei is one of the smallest indigenous communities based in the valley of Manipur with unique customs and traditions.
Population-wise, Meetei/Meitei is smaller than Naga and Chin-Kuki groups in the North East, it said while noting that the community is most eligible for inclusion in the ST list as it fulfils the criteria laid down for inclusion of a community in the ST list.
MMAB also briefly laid down the criteria viz- indications of primitive traits (collective cultural belief rooted in animism,  primitive healing tradition); distinctive culture (citing unique creation stories, Lai-Haraoba festival); geographical isolation; backwardness (citing low per capita income when compared to ST Nagas and ST Kukis).
The ST status to the Meetei/Meitei community will ensure there are restrictions on procurement of land in the valley districts, the association noted.
While acknowledging that there have been different opinions on the demand of ST for the community and inclusion of valley districts under Sixth Schedule, MMAB emphasized on the protection of Meetei/Meitei's unique culture and identity at all cost which can only be done when land is protected completely.
Revenue land where the Meetei/Meitei community is residing, should not be transferable to non-indigenous citizens, as without land, a culture or group ceases to exist.
The current resource in the valley is completely exhausted and it has been further aggravated with no protection from any migration/settlement leading to disparity and inequality. Hence, migrants can now only live in the valley which constitutes 10 percent of the State's geographical area and the remaining 90 percent is reserved and protected for the indigenous tribal groups, it said.
The shifting population has caused significant demographic imbalance. And to make it worse there are no Constitutional protection of any sort for the indigenous Meetei/Meitei people to live securely among the 1.3 billion-plus Indians, it added.
MMAB opined that wherever there are differentiating laws there will be injustice to certain segment of the society which will always impact the fabric of peace and harmony.
Whenever certain privileges were granted under the Constitution of India, it had its limitations, responsibility and time. When the Nation is also talking about Uniform Civil Code, to provide level playing field for all communities, having common land reform in the State will strengthen peace and harmony in the State in the long run, it added.
The request for land protection should not be seen as a hindrance to National integration by the much larger majority as the request is only for a small portion of the State of Manipur, particularly the valley areas. The land area requested to be protected is small as a major portion of Manipur is already protected as "Tribal Areas". It would be justified and fair to include the remaining areas of Manipur as "Tribal Areas", it opined.
Further, the limited population of Meetei/Meitei makes it aggressively important and necessary to protect the community, MMAB continued.
While maintaining that it has resolved to support the demand of Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur and World Meetei Convention (WMC) urging the Manipur Government to send recommendations for include Meetei/Meitei in the list of Scheduled Tribes, MMAB also appealed to Chief Minister N Biren Singh to do justice by sending recommendations to the Government of India as soon as possible.