Stating stand against ST demand Let Delhi have the say

Is this a manifestation of the territorial instinct of a group of people coming to the fore ? How else does one explain the rational of the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) in so strongly opposing the stand of the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM), the World Meetei Council and others to include the Meetei/Meitei in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India ? As noted many times in this column earlier, it is not ATSUM or anyone else to decide whether the ST demand raised by STDCM and WMC is illogical but the Centre and the debate should end here. Again it is not Imphal to decide whether the ST tag will fit the Meetei/Meitei group of people but New Delhi. As any State Government, it is the duty of Imphal to listen to any point raised by the people and it is along this line that the STDCM, WMC and others have been urging the State Government to send the needed recommendations to New Delhi. The stand that the recommendations be sent has again stemmed from the fact that it was none less than the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs which communicated to the State Government back in 2013 to send the recommendations that the Meeteis/Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution. ‘It is requested that specific recommendations along with the latest socio-economic survey and ethnographic report by an organisation of repute be furnished to this Ministry for consideration of the proposal for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei community in the ST list,’ reads a line in the communication from the Centre to the State Government dated May 29, 2013. And it is on the strength of this written communication from New Delhi that the STDCM and the WMC have been going ahead with the process of individually reaching out to the elected legislators and Ministers of the State Government. The interesting point is whether the opposition from ATSUM is a reflection of the trust deficit between the hill people of Manipur and the Meeteis/Meiteis. This is one point which needs serious introspection from either side. A clear point that everyone, particularly the Meeteis/Meiteis need to move beyond the Ching-Tam Amattani slogan and see the wrongs of history. The wrongs of history and it would also do good for ATSUM to reflect on the wrongs of history. The important point is, no group of people or individual can afford to continue living in history and the more important point is to see the past follies and take steps to rectify this.
As the hill people are wont to remind all, the Meeteis/Meiteis occupy only the valley area which is about 10 or 15 percent of the total geographical areas of Manipur. And more than 60 percent of the population settle in the 10/15 percent of area in Manipur. Add the continuing influx of non-locals, and it is but natural that the Meeteis/Meiteis should raise the cry for some sort of a Constitutional protection. How does this in any way affect the resources of the hill people whose landed properties and other rights are Constitutionally protected ? If ATSUM has any misgivings with the Meeteis/Meiteis getting the ST tag, then there are always internal arrangements that can be worked out so that the interests of each and every community in the State can be protected. It would be unfair to demand only the protection of one’s own land while disregarding the need for others. And it also stands that the very existence of the Meeteis/Meiteis as a community is central to the idea of the continued existence of Manipur as a geo-political reality. The ST point raised by the Meeteis/Meiteis should be seen in the context of the whole of Manipur and not only through the prism of one’s own interest. The important point however is, it is the Centre which will take the final call and not ATSUM or Imphal.