The debate over ST status for Meiteis Poser to ATSUM
Time for the State Government to take a non-nonsense stand and make it known that it is not a Government which is there to buckle under pressure of any sort. For this, obviously it has to first study any subject before it takes a stand, listen to different and at times even opposing voices and come to a conclusion. This cannot be more true than now, when opposing voices have been raised over the demand that the Meiteis be granted Scheduled Tribe status under the Constitution of India. The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur has already made its stand known and so too has the Pan Meetei Convention. On the other hand are the hill based student organisations, particularly the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur which has made it known that the ST status should not be granted to the Meiteis , which according to them, do not merit the tag of Scheduled Tribe, given its more than 2000 years old history, its rich culture etc. The arguments put for and against the ST demand for Meiteis is interesting but it is also interesting to note that when one talks about the history of the Meiteis it should mean the history of Manipur and not the Meiteis, afterall it is about the history of Manipur and not the history of any particular community. This is how the STDCM sees it if one goes by their ‘logic’ to counter the argument put forth by ATSUM calling the history as ‘shared history.’ And it also stands that it is only the Meiteis who are yet to receive any Constitutional protection and surely asking for some Constitutional safeguards cannot be to the disadvantage of any community.
Both sides may have their merits or demerits, but it would do good for all concerned to acknowledge the fact that ultimately it is not the Government of Manipur much less Chief Minister N Biren which can decide on whether the Meiteis should be granted the Scheduled Tribe status or not. That is the responsibility of the Centre. The only thing that the State Government can do is to send the needed recommendation to the Centre that the Meiteis be granted the Scheduled Tribe status. The All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur will obviously point to this and say this is the reason why it has urged Imphal not to send the recommendation. By this very line of argument, then can it be taken to mean that ATSUM is apprehensive that the ST status would ultimately be granted to the Meiteis, if the recommendation is sent ? If yes then doesn’t this amount to saying ‘Yes the Meiteis do have the characteristics to be classified as a Scheduled Tribe ?’If the answer is no then where is the need to pile the pressure on the State Government not to send the recommendation? This is where ATSUM would need to explain its stand to the people, after all it is a body which claims itself as the apex student body of the tribals of Manipur. Can ATSUM answer this question ?