From 1982 to 2023 is 4 decades The ST demand
Certain points should be very clear. The office of the Registrar General of India is reported to have turned down the suggestion from the Union Home Ministry to include the Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India in 1982. This is what has been reported clearly in a reputed newspaper with a pan India outlook and having the status of a National newspaper and not surprisingly this has kick started experts on either side of the ST divide to chip in with their respective sets of interpretations, one such piece of which The Sangai Express is carrying today from a certain gentleman. The RGI must have had its own reason for turning down the proposal to include the Meiteis in the ST list in 1982 when the then Rishang Keishing led Government sent the report based on ‘available information.’ Proposal or report turned down or rejected, but it is not yet clear whether the ‘available information’ gave a true picture of the socio-economic status of the Meiteis or not. Plus it is crucial to remember that it is not a case of ‘once rejected, forever rejected,’ and it stands that there is no rule which says that a community which has been included in the ST list cannot be delisted in as much as a tribal group which is outside the ST list cannot be included in the scheduled list. This is the reality and it is also along this reality that issue of ST for Meiteis demand should be viewed and understood. And 2023 is not 1982 and much has changed since then. The reference to 2001 should be understood in the context of the fact that it was a reply from the State Government that the Meiteis need not be included in the ST list and not a rejection of a report sent by Imphal. Moreover the vocal ST for Meiteis demand was yet to dawn. The bottomline is it was not a report on the socio-economic status of the Meiteis that was submitted in 2001 but just a reply from the State Government, a reply which was prepared by the Tribal Development Department of the State Government. It is as much the same as the report sought by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in 2013 from the State Government on the socio-economic status of the Meiteis. The only difference is, the State Government is yet to act on the 2013 missive while it did reply in 2001. The report in the said National newspaper should be seen and understood in the backdrop of the points briefly touched here.
All the instances cited or recalled here should more than debunk the false narrative that the High Court of Manipur had recommended the inclusion of the Meiteis in the ST list. As repeatedly stated here, it is not the job of the judiciary to decide whether the Meiteis fit the bill to be included in the ST list or not, but Parliament or the Government at New Delhi. This should rubbish the very reason for which the May 3 Tribal Solidarity March was organised by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur in the first place. Newspapers and news agencies based outside Manipur may have their own agenda for repeatedly harping back on the manufactured reason for staging the May 3 rally, but the reality will continue to stand. One is also left wondering why the existing tribal groups of Manipur which have already been included in the scheduled list should so strongly oppose the proposal that the Meiteis be included in the ST list. As a young acquaintance shared, if it is competition in the job market they are wary of then why concentrate only on the Meiteis ? Are they able to compete with the STs from other States ? Are they able to get into the top engineering and medical schools of India ? And remember six more communities from Assam have already been declared as Scheduled Tribes and their formal inclusion in the list may come anytime. The extremely narrow outlook of only looking within Manipur is what is jarring.