Sleeping over it for 10 years Boost from High Court

The then Congress Government slept over it and the script remained the same after a BJP led Government came to power at Imphal following the 2017 Assembly elections. For ten long years, the Government here slept over the intimation from the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs to send the needed recommendations to include the Meitei/Meetei in the ST list of the Constitution of India. A copy of the letter from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to the State Government which was made available to The Sangai Express by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur, while referring to a representation from the Convenor of the STDCM, states ‘‘...It is requested that specific recommendations alongwith the latest socio-economic survey and ethnographic report by an organisation of repute be furnished to this Ministry for consideration of the proposal for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei community in the ST list of Manipur.” Significantly the said copy was made available to The Sangai Express after it was suggested in this very column that such an intimation should be made available to the media and the public and this is a point which has already been acknowledged. The intimation from the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs to the State Government was dated 29th May, 2013 and in the face of the utter indifference of the State Government, the Honourable High Court of Manipur has stepped in and asked Imphal ‘to consider the case preferably within a period of four weeks from today’ that is April 19, 2023. No one knows why the State Government slept over the communication from the Centre for a decade and this is a pretty long time. Thanks to the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union, the first round, it seems, has gone to the advocates of ST for Meiteis call, notably the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur, the World Meetei Council and others but it should not be forgotten that this is but the first step. One hopes that the organisation to be entrusted with the task of preparing the latest socio-economic and ethnographic report of the Meitei people will be in the position to take up the responsibility fittingly and submit a foolproof report which will have no loopholes. The die is cast and the State Government will now be bound to send the recommendations but the task is not yet over for the STDCM, WMC, MTU and others, for no one can rule out the possibility of others, notably the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur to roll up their sleeves and take their stand, again, to New Delhi to dissuade the Centre.
Parliament election is next year. While Manipur gets to send only two MPs to the Lok Sabha, every number will count in the ultimate analysis and this is where the pro-ST bodies can and should start charting out their policies. Make the ST for Meiteis call a major poll issue in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, at least in the Inner Parliamentary Constituency. This could be one effective way of letting the message reach Delhi. All major political parties will have their men here too in the run up to the Parliamentary elections and perhaps now is the time to start laying the road map. The STDCM has already taken their case to many MLAs here and this is now the right time to remind them of their earlier stand and give their demand more political weightage. The issue has to be taken from all directions. Let more attempts be also made to take everyone along, particularly the section of Meitei people who are still under the impression that getting the ST tag would kill the competitive instinct of the community. Let there be more mobilisation drive, ‘educate’ the people on the need to get Constitutional protection, particularly the land and natural resources. Take the campaign to the schools and colleges too. Much more needs to be done and the ruling from the High Court of Manipur should ideally serve as the fillip to give more teeth to the demand that the Meiteis be granted the ST tag and at the same time keep on pressurising the State Government to send the recommendations as early as possible.