Opinion poll & quest for ST status

The suggestion of holding an opinion poll on the debate of recommending Meitei/Meetei community for enlistment in the Scheduled Tribe category as forwarded by MLA Khumukcham Joykisan sounds logical and fair enough. The debate whether the particular community should be categorized as ST or not cannot go on forever, and it is not up to the protagonists or the antagonists to decide the debate. Rather, it is the people or more precisely the Meitei public who should take a final decision on the issue. At the same time, it is necessary to take all other communities who are living together in the State of Manipur into confidence if the Meiteis should adopt the ST tag. As reflected in the sustained movement being spearheaded by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur (STDCM) which is supported by many other organisations like the World Meitei Council (WMC), there is palpable tone of urgency. They had already elicited the opinions of many a great number of legislators and almost all the legislators they met so far have expressed their support to the demand of categorizing Meitei/Meetei as an ST community. The sense of urgency which is driving the sustained campaign is understandable given the reports that Imphal will finally find its place in the country’s railway map by December 2023. There is a general apprehension that that the inflow of immigrants is bound to multiply manifold once Imphal is linked with other parts of the country by railways. This apprehension is understandable given the fact that immigration of non-local people has been going on in sizeable volume since many decades back even in the absence of railway link and the Inner Line Permit System or ILPS has achieved very little in checking this largely unidirectional migration. The State Government’s reluctance, if not total unwillingness, to send the necessary recommendation to the Central Government is also understandable given the stiff opposition raised by some sections of people.
Even though many of the legislators have declared their support to the demand of enlisting Meitei/Meetei in the ST category, none of them have so far done anything tangible or promised something concrete.  The basic arguments which are driving the campaign for inclusion of Meitei community in ST list are; the community constitutes a microscopic minority of the vast multitude of Indian population and their tiny living space has been shrinking day by day in the absence of a constitutional safeguard. The counter argument of the other camp is built on the edifice that the Meiteis are a relatively advanced community, there was a glorious Meitei kingdom and they have a refined culture with a language and script of their own. Apparently, both the arguments in favour of granting ST status to Meitei and the counter arguments appear to be sound enough. However, a deeper study reveals that relative advancement of Meitei community over fellow indigenous communities of the State is a rather misplaced notion in this age of globalization. As for the glorious Meitei kingdom, it is a thing of the past. If we must talk about the so called refined Meitei culture, it is being bombarded by foreign cultural elements from all directions. It becomes impossible to protect one’s identity if his/her community’s living space is shrinking. This is exactly what is happening to the Meitei community who inhabits the Manipur Valley which is just around 2300 Sq Kms. It will be a win-win situation if the Chief Minister or the State Government can bring a consensus among all stake holders on the issue. An extensive opinion poll can definitely serve as a catalyst towards deciding the issue. Nonetheless, all the stake holders must sit together and negotiate directly with open minds with active participation of the State Government and explore a win-win formula.