Reaching out to ATSUM via Pfoze STDCM on track
The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) is on track. Right thing it has done in seeking to reach out to the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) in its pursuit for the ST tag for the Meiteis. It has also gone a step forward in first sending the needed feelers or points to Lok Sabha MP Dr Lorho Pfoze, a man regarded across Manipur. Too early to say how ATSUM would respond to the move of STDCM, but important to note that it is the student body which has been voicing its stand against the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution of India. Those who have been following the demand and the voice of opposition to it must still remember how ATSUM took their stand to New Delhi and canvassed against the move to get the Meiteis be enlisted in the ST list. The debate that raged on between some leaders of ATSUM and members of other organisations on the ST for Meiteis question in The Sangai Express is also there for the records. It is in taking cognizance of the stiff opposition raised that The Sangai Express had suggested the need for leaders of STDCM to reach out to all concerned and talk things over. The STDCM was also on the right track in maintaining that if there is any apprehension on job reservation, internal arrangements may be effected such as in the neighbouring States of Assam, Nagaland and Meghalaya. This line makes perfect sense and this is something which can be worked out to the satisfaction of everyone concerned. This is where it also becomes incumbent on the part of ATSUM to come to the point that the Meiteis do need some sort of a Constitutional protection. Opposing this may amount to taking a position that runs contrary to the understanding of co-existence. It is plain and simple logic-It certainly does not make sense to toe the line ‘My land is protected and it will stay protected, but your land can stay exposed to the incursion of others.’ Look at the valley area, a mere 10 or 15 or 20 percent of the total geographical area of Manipur and it is open for everyone to come and settle including members of ATSUM. A look at some of the names of the localities given in Imphal should tell its own significant story. Certainly not a model for meaningful co-existence.
Reaching out-this is the first step that STDCM has taken and it would be right to take things to the next step and see how things unfold. This is where it may become necessary to get in touch with tribal leaders of the State and see how to put the case of the Meiteis in the right perspective before them. Such a step can go some way in convincing ATSUM that the ‘ST for Meiteis’ demand will not in any way intrude into the rights of the existing tribal groups in Manipur. Let the Ministry concerned, the people who matter at New Delhi, decide on whether the Meiteis fit the bill to be included in the ST list or not. And for this, it is necessary for the Government at Imphal to send the needed recommendation. The silence maintained by the State Government, particularly the Chief Minister on the matter, may certainly not be the right way to go about dealing with the issue. Land and people and even as the hill people, particularly the NSCN (IM), have been talking about the unbreakable bond between land and the people, it should also not be forgotten that the Meiteis too cannot be understood without their ties to their land. Protection of land and resources and this is something which no one should grudge against the Meiteis. That would be gross injustice, bereft of all logic and sanity and getting included in the ST list is perhaps the most effective way to protect the land of the people. It should also not be forgotten that only when a sense of security envelops all section of the people, can the security of everyone in Manipur be guaranteed. The ST for Meiteis demand can be equated with the survival of Manipur. A point which the Government at Imphal should not overlook.