K Yugindro Singh, Sh Janaki Sharma & M Manihar Singh (Independent Researchers)
Ngaranmi Shimray has brought in many absurd materials in his article entitled ‘Rebuttal to the article Meetei/Meitei’s from ST list-queer controversies” which was published in the editorial page of The Sangai Express (English Edition) on 01.11.2023. Since Shimray’s article has the potential for misinformation to the ongoing move for inclusion of Meetei/Meitei in the ST list, we are constrained to relevantly clarify with justification that those materials contained in the article are indeed absurd and unfounded.
1. The ‘QUESTIONNAIRE’ circulated by the Backward Class Commission (BCC) on 15th June 1953 contains 182 questions under 26 sections being incorporated at Appendix II of BCC Report Vol. I.
The Preface of the said QUESTIONNAIRE contains the statement: “We have only to suggest if any modifications in the list of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are necessary in order to make them exhaustive, and up-to-date” (See page 220 of the BCC Report Vol. I). This constraint faced by the Backward Class Commission, had arisen due to the mandate of authority assigned to them by the President of India which reads as: ‘The President of India was pleased to direct the commission to examine the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as already published under his order and to suggest any revision of those lists, if on enquiry it was found that such a revision was necessary’(See page 154 of the BCC Report Vol. I).’
2. The list of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes relevant here to the context of Manipur, are those contained in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) (Part C States) Order, 1951 dated 20th September 1951 and the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) (Part C States) Order, 1951 dated 20th September 1951. Since Meitei had not been included in the list of Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution Order dated 20th September 1951, the Questionnaire of the BCC was not applicable to Meitei. The Questionnaire of the BCC which was to be answered by the then Government of Manipur headed by a Chief Commissioner, was essentially to make exhaustive and up-to-date the lists of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes of Manipur which was then in existence. The visit of some members from the Commission at six places of Manipur during November 22 to 24, 1953 was to give a hearing to the representatives of both Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes inhabited in those places and also to let them feel that the Commission was not indifferent to their problems (See page 5 of the BCC Report Vol. I). Therefore, the points raised by Ngaranmi Shimray in connection with the Questionnaire of the BCC fall entirely in the domain of absurdity.
As such, in the light of the President’s direction, the Kaka Kalelkar Commission neither had the authority to examine the case of Meitei tribe for inclusion in the revised list of tribes of Manipur nor had the authority to recommend the Meitei tribe to the President.
3. The assertion of Ngaranmi Shimray that Meitei are not a tribe but are a caste is entirely absurd being contrary to records maintained by the British Government of India. There is no illegality in the registration of the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union. To get knowing that Meitei is a tribe but not a caste, it would be in the fitness of things if Ngaranmi Shimray could particularly contemplate on paras 1 to 4 of our article “Ngaranmi Shimray’s reasons for exclusion of Meitei in the ST list are misleading and incorrect” published in The Sangai Express on October 14, 2023, which are reproduced below:
“1. During the days when the British ruled India, the British administrators identified and classified the people of India based on the definitions of ‘caste’ and ‘tribe’ enshrined in the ‘Imperial Gazetteer of India’ published by H. Frowde, Oxford University, London (1907) and other authority books such as the ‘Census of India, 1901 Report’ by HH Risley & EA Gait (1903), and ‘The People of India’ by Hebert Risley & W Crook (1915). The anthropological devices used for the purpose were ethnography, ethnology and anthropometry which are well described in authority books such as ‘The Tribes and Castes of Bengal’ by HH Resley (1891).
2. Based on the ethnography of Meitei as provided in the book ‘Annual Report of the Munnipore Political Agency for 1868-69’ by Dr R Brown, the then Political Agent of Manipur, the British Government of India identified and classed Meitei as a primitive hill tribe of the erstwhile Assam Province. (For instance, see AM Meerwarth’s book ‘Ethnographical Gallery, Guidebook No. 2 (The Andamanese, Nicobarese and Hill Tribes of Assam)’ (1919)). As such, during the days when the British ruled India, the then British Government of India enlisted Meitei as a primitive hill tribe right from the year 1872 when the noted ethnographer ET Dalton published his famous book “Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal” printed by the Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta.
3. In all census reports right from the census of India 1881, various books and research articles authored by contemporary British ethnographers, linguists and administrators during the British rule of India, described Meitei as a primitive hill tribe. For instance, in the book ‘Census of India, 1931 Volume III Assam Part I – Report’, by CS Mullan, MA, ICS, published by the Superintendent, Assam Government Press, Shillong in 1932, the author listed a series of 12 (twelve) primitive hill tribes of Assam viz., Meitei, Mikirs, Garos, Naga Tribes of Manipur, Kacharies, Lu-shai-Kuki, Khasis, Angami Nagas, Lotha Nagas, Ao Nagas, Thado Kukis, Lakhers, along with authority monographs on the ethnology of the tribes (pp.205). In case of Meitei, the monograph ‘The Meithei’ authored by TC Hodson was acknowledged.”
4. Scheduled Tribes (STs) are notified under 342 of the Constitution of India. The Government of India had on 15.6.1999 (and further revised on 25.6.2002) approved the modalities for determining claims for inclusion in and other modifications in the list of Scheduled Tribes. As per these modalities only proposals recommended and justified by the State Government concerned and agreed to by the Registrar General of India (RGI) as well as the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) are considered for amendment of legislation. Proposals, if any, for inclusion in or exclusion from,the list of Scheduled Tribes are to be taken as per the amended 1999 modalities. The recommendation of the concerned State Government is pre-requisite for inclusion of a tribe in the ST list. Vide two letters bearing Nos. 19020/05/2012-C&I.M. dated 29.05.2013 and 12026/09/2013-C&I.M. dated 31.05.2022, the Government of India, Ministry of Tribal Affairs requested the Government of Manipur to furnish specific recommendation for inclusion of ‘Meitei/Meetei’ community in the Scheduled Tribes list of Manipur, but the Government of Manipur is yet to respond to those letters of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
Sensing the premo- nition of not being taken up appropriate action to comply with the two letters of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs dated 29.05.2013 and 31.05.2022 by the Government of Manipur, eight members of the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union filed a writ petition being WP(C) No. 229 of 2023 in the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur, praying for issuance of a writ/direction to the Government of Manipur in this regard.
All respondents mentioned in the writ petition No. 229 of 2023 are the concerned authorities of the Central/State Governments involved in the issue for inclusion of a community in the Scheduled Tribes list of Manipur.
5. It is not necessary to include any of the existing Scheduled tribe communities of Manipur as private respondent in filing the writ petition WP(C) No. 229 of 2023 simply on the ground that they are already included in the Scheduled Tribes enjoying the privileges of being ST for a long time. They cannot be regarded as aggrieved parties in the light of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of VN Krishna Murthy vs Ravikumar, [(2020) 9 SCC 501] wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held as under:
“19. The expression ‘person aggrieved’ does not include a person who suffers from a psychological or an imaginary injury; a person aggrieved must, therefore, necessarily be one, whose right or interest has been adversely affected or jeopardised [vide Shanti Kumar R Canji vs Home Insurance Company of New York, (1974) 2 SCC 387, and State of Rajasthan vs. Union of India, (1977) 3 SCC 592].”
It may be pertinent to mention that the said judgement of the Hon’ble Apex Court has overruled the judgement of the same Court in the case of “A. Subah Babu vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and Anr.” reported in (2011) 7 SCC 616.
(To be contd)