Save Meetei and other indigenous people of the State

Th Ranjit Singh
 “Meetei community inhabiting in the State and elsewhere are the original or native of Manipur/Meitrabak/Kangleipak/Haoleipak and forms one of the principal indigenous communities of the North East India. Since Meetei is the original people of this place, he becomes a Scheduled Tribe but is yet to be reognised by the Government of India. This follows, according to the landmark judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India dated the 5th January, 2011 in connection with the harassment of a tribal woman named Nandabai (25 years) of Bhil Tribe (Spl. Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 10367 of 2010 in Kailas and others Vs State of Maharastra), it has been stated that the present Scheduled Tribes are the descendants of the original people/inhabitants of Adivasis of the country and comprise 8% of the population of India. The rest, 92% of the population of India, consists of descendants of immigrants.
Consequently, Meetei being indigenous/original people of the country automatically becomes a Scheduled Tribe. “Since Meetei continues to follow the old traditions, culture, language, way of life etc. of their forefathers, inspite of their forced conversion into Hinduism during the reign of King Pamheiba (1709-1748) they are said to be permanent tribe, according to the convention No. 169 of 1989 of ILO an specialised agency of UNO.” The tall claim of some people both in the hills and plain that Meetei is an advanced community is a rhetoric and has no valid reason to substantiate their arguments.
It is a fact that Meetei community was more advanced than other indigenous communities in many ways in the past in the State but not in NE and the country. Majority of the people except few elites in the urban areas, qualify the criteria laid down by Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India for enlishment of any community in the ST list of the country. “The criteria are primitive traits, distinctive culture, shyness of contact with the community at large, geographical isolation and backwardness. The indigenous Meetei fulfils all the above criteria though they are embracing Hinduism and Sanamahism since they are following the old traditions, cultures, languages, way of life, etc. of their forefathers unlike their brethren ST as they are following Christianity truly. Indigenous people should feel very proud of being the children of the soil or original communities of the State.”
The argument that when Meetei is included in the ST list, 31% reservation quota of present STs in the State will be affected too much is unfounded and baseless. There will be no trespassing or encroaching on reservation quota amongst the different ST categories as the State Governments are empowered for just and fair allotment of reservation seats by the Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution.
Thus, in Assam, STs are categorised as Plain Tribe and Hill Tribe and have separate quota of 10% and 5% respectively, based on their population. Similarly, in Meghalaya Sate too, 40% of Jaintia and Khasi, 40% for Garos, 5% of others. Since reservations are made both in the Centre and States, there will be no points of worrying by any ST in the State when Meetei becomes plain ST or New ST in due course of time.
Demand for inclusion in the ST list of the country is for the survival of a human race which is facing extinction like the Shirui Lily and Sangai, the rarest and most precious flower and animal of the world found in our hilly State alone. The demand is again for ethnic equality, peace and progress in this State and to enable the indigenous communities to face various challenges coming from outside the State for its sustainable development.  To achieve this goal, the responsibility lies with the Govt. and the political leaders and delay in this regard will cost heavily and consequences will be disastrous for the Meetei community in particular and other indigenous people of the State at large. Sooner the ST for Meetei, the better and safer for the State and its indigenous people.