Who are Scheduled Tribes in the true spirit of Constitution ?
Dr Arambam Birajit
For the last 5/6 years we have been talking about the inclusion of Meitei/Meetei in the list of Scheduled Tribes for Constitutional safeguard of the land and resources. Different opinions of different individuals regarding the Meiteis to be or not to be a tribal have been discussed in different media viz TV channels and newspapers.
They are shy to contact with other communities and they live at remote and far off places of North East corner connected with deplorable mountainous roads. All these points are constructed to qualify the criteria laid down by the Lokur Committee (1965) which are as follows i) Primitive Traits, ii) Distinctive Culture, iii) Geographical Isolation, iv) Shyness to contact with Community at large, and v) Socio-economic backwardness. Here, somebody assumes that any culture different from Aryan culture is the meaning of “Distinctive Culture”.
But in the criteria, the meaning of “distinctive” is the primitiveness of their total way of life, and not about the peculiar identity of the particular culture. Now, the question is whether our own culture or religion will be primitive for its dissimilarity with Hinduism ? Contrastingly, when we again talk about our Manipuri language for enlisting as classical language even one who had betrayed our culture and religion would again try to dignify the Manipuri language as one of the finest languages having a recorded history of more than 2000 years and original literary tradition with its own script etc. Many cultural anthropologists have affirmed that the language is the backbone of a culture.
So, any form of antithetic statement between language and culture is not acceptable. So, asserting such one sided, disapproving and contradictory statement is very much unfortunate for all of us. It may lead to an obstruction/defamation in the progressive journey of our culture as well as language.
Regarding hawaijar, Ngari and soibum, it is not necessary to define more as it is a matter of food science/technology in a traditional way.
Some foods prepared under the same process of fermentation like Yoghurt, Dosa, Jalebi etc. are popular foods of mainland people whom some regard as developed general caste society. And the same society/community also eat food on plantain leaves in the same manner in their social occasions. In connection with the criterion of geographical isolation, there is a misinterpretation that remoteness and connecting with mainland India through neglected bad road condition are different from the meaning of geographical isolation.
It means self isolation or pushed out by some forces from the main society with a historical reason. In case of Meitei, there is no history of self-isolation or pushed out by any force of mainland society to live in such an oasis surrounded by nine mountain ranges.
Till 1949, they had no shared history with Indian civilization.
Mixing with the ideas of indigeneity of Meiteis with that of adivasis, the original inhabitants of India will be a nightmare for the future generation of Meiteis.
Now, again another narrative of being adivasis should not be introduced as the pain of distorting Meitei identity as descendants of Aryans in the past has hardly been cured.
(To be contd)