Taking the ST demand to the floor of Parliament From the streets to RS
It did not feature as a major poll issue in the just held Assembly election in Manipur. But it is nonetheless significant to note that Rajya Sabha MP Leishemba Sanajaoba took it upon himself to raise the demand that the Meiteis/Meeteis be included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India in the Rajya Sabha on April 5. Still not clear how the Centre would have taken the special mention raised by the MP in the Upper House of Parliament and also not yet clear how the other communities would have taken the demand raised by the MP. The All Manipur Muslim Organisation Co-ordinating Committee (AMMOCOC) on the other hand, while supporting the demand that the Meiteis/Meeteis be included in the ST list, however picked flaws in the point raised by the MP, reasoning that as a representative of the people, Sanajaoba should not have spoken only on behalf of the Meiteis/Meeteis but should have also raised the point that the Meitei Pangals too should be included in the ST list. The AMMOCOC’s point is noted but the interesting question is how well the point raised by Leishemba Sanajaoba would have gone down with the others, particularly the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM). Here one is reminded of the intense war of words or debates that ensued between the student body and the World Meetei Convention some time back on the question of whether the ST demand by the Meeteis/Meiteis is justified or not. As repeatedly pointed out in this column it is not the job of the either body to decide whether the ST status ought to be given to the Meeteis/Meiteis for that decision should lie with the Centre. The difference of opinion and take on the issue is appreciated for it is only after a thorough debate that a consensus can be arrived at, but one hopes that the opposition is not raised just for the sake of opposing anything that is seen to be Meetei/Meitei centric. It is not just the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee (STDCM) and the World Meetei Convention which have raised the ST status demand and it was just as recently as March 30 that the Centre decided to grant the same to the Darlong clan of Tripura. Earlier the Centre too had decided to confer the ST status on 12 communities of Arunachal Pradesh.
It is early days yet and it is as yet unclear how well the Centre would have taken the point raised by Leishemba Sanajaoba, but the Rajya Sabha MP has done what he believes is right for remember he had also personally taken part in a rally organised by STDCM on the same demand before he became the Rajya Sabha MP. The interesting question is whether the BJP led Government at Imphal was in the know of the point that the Rajya Sabha MP was about to raise on the floor of Parliament. Was the State Government consulted or did the MP act on his own is one question that may be raised at this point of time. If the answer is in the affirmative then can one expect the State Government to start doing the spadework to send the needed recommendations to the Centre ? No clear cut answer at the moment but an important point has been delivered and the ST demand has made it to the floor of Parliament. This is an important progress of the demand which has so for been raised on the streets of Imphal, with the World Meetei Convention and STDCM raising the same demand occasionally through the media. It also remains that much will depend on how successfully the STDCM and the WMC are in taking every section of society along with their stand. Remember it is not only ATSUM and other bodies which the two need to take along but also some sections of the Meetei/Meitei community which do not see eye to eye with the point raised so far.