ST demand has come a long way Wrongs of history

Shutdown to street corner meetings, rallies, eliciting positive responses from the elected representatives of the people via personal visits to attempt to march up to the Assembly where the session is presently on, the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur and others who have backed their stand, have more than demonstrated that they are serious that the Meiteis should be included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India. Not that there are no differences with those already in the ST club having made it clear that they are strongly against the ST demand for the Meiteis, amply demonstrated by the hectic canvassing and campaigning conducted by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur at Delhi some time in 2022. Not all the Meiteis too back the ST demand of the STDCM and it is against all these odds that the campaign to include the Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution of India has been going on.  Opposition there will always be and this is something which the STDCM, the World Meetei Council, the Kangleipak Kanba Lup and others who have backed the ST demand for the Meiteis must have anticipated from the beginning and it should not take more than a fleeting look to understand that the opposition has arisen because the demand raised definitely has some merits which cannot be brushed aside that easily. This is the way to look at things and the STDCM, WMC, KKL and others too must have come around to this line of thought. Not exactly opposing but it is also significant to note that there are have been similar demands raised by others which could dilute the ST demand and it is also gratifying to note that this too seems to have been taken note of. Non-indigenous folks of the land should absolutely have no right to raise the ST demand, for at the core of the demand raised by the STDCM, WMC, KKL and others, it should not be forgotten that land is central to it all. Why should the land of the Meiteis be left exposed, so much so, that the very existence or rights of the Meiteis to live on their own land may be compromised with the changing demography of the land ? And why should those already included in the ST list oppose this so much, especially given the fact that their land is already Constitutionally protected while they can and are allowed to settle in any part of Manipur ? What about the land of the Meiteis ? The argument, ’We can settle in your land cause you belong to the general class, while you cannot settle in ours, cause we belong to the ST,’ is a line that is tough to digest.
It is about the protection of the interests of the Meitei community and there cannot be two ways about it. Let the campaign continue and as pointed out here in earlier commentaries, let the proponents of the ST demand work in such a way that the demand can at least become some sort of a major poll issue when Manipur goes to vote in the early part of 2027. For this to happen, STDCM would need to put its best foot forward, give more teeth to its mobilising capacity and reach out wider so that more and more civil society organisations can be accommodated on the ST demand bandwagon. This is where it also becomes important to question why the STDCM, the WMC and KKL so far do not seem to have struck a common meeting ground. It would look so much more impressive and yes more effective if the rallies or human chains or sit-in protests etc are staged together. Some thoughts along this line ought to be given by the leaderships of STDCM, WMC, KKL and others and seriously at that. Looking at things right now, an affirmative Yes will take time from the State Government to send the recommendations to Delhi and given this reality, it would be best for all the proponents of ST for Meiteis call to strike a united stand and etch out a common ground where all can come together and share ideas and give their stand more vocal power. In many ways the ST demand call has been raised to right the wrongs of history and it would not make any sense to repeat the wrongs of the past by failing to come together on a common platform at this juncture.