Opposition to ST demand from ATSUM Rough ride ahead
Why is the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) so concerned with the ST tag demand or pursuit raised by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur and the World Meetei Council for the Meeteis/Meiteis ? If one goes by the stand of ATSUM then the Meeteis/Meiteis are an advanced community marked by ‘2000 years of civilisation, unbroken lineage of kingship, superlative cultural advancement with its exquisite classical dances purportedly shown as the finest form of arts, Meitei language (Manipuri) recognised under the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India, signing of international treaties with the British in 1726 AD and 1826 AD, academic advancement with high literacy rate’ etc. The contention of ATSUM obviously cannot be brushed aside with a wave of the hand, but the interesting question is whether the treaties signed in 1726 and 1826 were on behalf of only the Meeteis/Meiteis or encompassed the whole place that came under the geo-political reality that is Manipur. Or is there going to be a debate that the hills did not come under the King of Manipur ? If so did the Merger Agreement cover only the place where the Meeteis/Meiteis lived and excluded the areas purportedly represented by ATSUM now as a tribal student body ? One wonders what the STDCM and the WMC have got to say on the points raised by ATSUM. Whichever line of ‘reasoning’ one takes, it is not ATSUM, not STDCM or WMC which will decide whether the Meeteis/Meiteis fit the bill to be categorised as a Scheduled Tribe under the Constitution of India, but New Delhi and this point should register in the minds of everyone. What however cannot be denied is the fact that the ancestral lands of the Meeteis/Meiteis have come under severe threats in the absence of any Constitutional protection and the ST demand raised by the STDCM, WMC and backed by many who have not taken centre stage should be seen against this backdrop. The ST categorisation demand raised by STDCM and WMC should not be seen as going against the hill people, the group of people which ATSUM claims to represent obviously while issuing the statement to the media on October 22. This was not the first time that ATSUM has spoken out against the pursuit of STDCM and WMC and one can certainly recall the debates that raged on between it and WMC on the pages of The Sangai Express some time back. And this certainly will not be the last one either.
Let there be debates, but there should be no punching below the belt. Maybe it is in anticipation of such opposition from certain sections that could be dissuading the Government here at Imphal to send the needed recommendations to the Centre to consider the point that the Meeteis/Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution. Difficult to say what efforts have been made to reach out to all, but remember it is not only ATSUM which has spoken out against the campaign to include the Meeteis/Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution, but also from a section of the Meetei/Meitei community. What steps have been taken up by STDCM and WMC to reach out to this section of people is a question worth raising. All indications that much more need to be done to give more teeth to the campaign to include the Meeteis/Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution and this is a fact which the STDCM and WMC cannot afford to overlook. ATSUM has spoken out and one can expect some sort of a response from either the STDCM or the WMC in the coming days.