Opposition to ST demand for Meiteis The opposition says it all
It was not, repeat was not, a solidarity rally, a solidarity rally qualified by the prefix ‘Tribal’, but was rather one of ‘confrontation’ rally. Things have certainly taken a turn for the worse, from the manner in which groups of people ran riot at Churachandpur a few days back to burning an Open Gym, which was scheduled to be inaugurated by none other than the Chief Minister himself to ransacking the place designated for the public, to now the ‘solidarity rally.’ It is also clear that the Government seems to have been caught off guard by the turn of events or else how does one explain the point that rallyists from Churachandpur reportedly managed to march up to Phougakchao Ikhai, the place which lies just on the border of Bishnupur-Churachandpur dis-trict, a place which is 11.5 kilometres away from Churachandpur district headquarters. Difficult to believe that the rallyists were given the free way to march for 11.5 kilometres outside Churachandpur, the place where the rally was designated to be held. That Churachandpur would be the nerve centre of the proposed ‘solidarity rally’ was something which did not need to be written down in bold but it was something which should have been anticipated. That the Government agencies failed to read the writing on the wall is there for all to see and this is what is extremely disturbing. It is also significant to note that while the rally was held simultaneously across the hill districts, the question of ‘Protected Forest’ and ‘Reserved Forest’ did not feature that prominently though this was the precursor to the supposedly ‘solidarity rally’. The focus was on the demand raised that the Meiteis be included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India. This is where it gets interesting. Reserved Forest and Protected Forest and the forest rights of the tribals was one issue which was stressed at Churachandpur a few days back, but these points did not feature in the rallies held on May 3 across the hill districts. More than obvious that the ‘solidarity rally’ would not have elicited such a response if the focus was on Reserved Forest and Protected Forest. And no untoward incident or violence reported from other districts, such as Ukhrul, but only from Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Moreh and hereby hangs a tale, a significant tale. Is it the State Government which will have the final say on whether the Meiteis fit the bill to be tagged a Scheduled Tribe or does the final decision lie with the Centre?
The job of Imphal is just to send the needed report to the Centre and there its job ends. The High Court of Manipur too acted on the report sought by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs and it is not within the Judiciary to decide on whether the Meiteis ought to be included in the ST list or not. This is a line which The Sangai Express has been maintaining all this while and the very fact that ATSUM managed to mobilise such a response from the hill people should testify that the Meiteis fit the bill to be tagged a Scheduled Tribe under the Constitution of India. This much is clear and what should also be clear to all is that the Government of Manipur cannot and should not be identified with any particular community. What happened after the rally was more than a clear indication that the State Government is being identified with a particular community and nothing can be more tragic than this. Or was the solidarity rally a sort of a coming together of the hill people to gang up against the Meiteis ? Here again it should be clear to all that not all the Meiteis stand with the ST for Meiteis call and this is a fact that should not blow over the heads of anyone. It should also be clear to all that the ST for Meiteis call is not more than a demand raised to the Centre and it stands that the Meiteis were at one point of time referred to as tribals by the British. The demand is to be included in the Scheduled list.