Demand for ST tag by Meiteis Spelling out the truth
In many ways the false narrative started from the first step taken during the Tribal Solidarity March organised by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur on May 3. The false premise on which the so called Solidarity March was organised was the order of the High Court of Manipur to send the report/recommendation that the Meiteis be included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India. In the first place, it is not the job of the Judiciary to decide whether the Meiteis as a community fit the bill to be included in the Scheduled list of tribals of India, though the fact stands that the Meiteis were referred to as a Hill Tribe by the British. The report or recommendation is to be sent or forwarded to the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and their say or stand will have to be submitted to the Union Cabinet. It is only after due consultations by the Union Cabinet that the matter will have to be brought on the floor of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. In other words, it is not the Judiciary but Parliament which will have the last say on whether the Meiteis fit the bill to be included in the Scheduled list of tribals of India or not. This is where the lie for organising the Tribal Solidarity March lies exposed for one and all to see. Also remember it was at Churachandpur where violence erupted and soon spread to Kangpokpi and Moreh, and not at the Naga dominated districts of Senapati, Ukhrul or Tamenglong. The first lie stands exposed for one and all to see here and it is mind boggling why the parachute story tellers from other parts of the country refuse to go back to this part of the story and just pick up from where they want to. As The Sangai Express has consistently held, it is the job of the Centre to decide whether the Meiteis as a tribal group fit the bill to be included in the Scheduled list of tribals or not, and the job of the State Government is to just send the report or recommendation. It was way back on May 29, 2013 that the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs had sent a written communication to the State Government to send the report along with the latest sociological survey and ethnographic report for inclusion of the Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution of India and it was on the basis of this communication that the High Court of Manipur had asked the State Government to do the needful. If the Meiteis do not fit the criteria to be included in the ST list, then why should such a huge ruckus be raised ? A question which ATSUM and all those who have bent backwards to churn out their own version of the ongoing clash may perhaps may be placed to answer.
There are reasons why the Kukis and ATSUM are so apprehensive that the Meiteis could be included in the Scheduled list of the Tribals under the Constitution of India. Primitive traits, endogamous character, distinct culture, historical and geographical isolation, shyness of contact with others, backwardness-these are the salient features laid down by the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry for a community to be included in the ST list and the Meiteis fulfil all the characteristics spelt out here. As a young man shared in a post on the social media, ‘although the Meiteis adopted Hinduism, many still retain the traditional religious beliefs and practices which closely resemble totemism, animism, paganism, ancestor worship, best exemplified by the worship of Mount Koubru, Tarpon Katpa, worshipping Umang Lai etc.’ This is but just one aspect wherein the Meiteis fulfil the criteria laid down by the Centre and the others include the very, very low exogamous practise meaning majority of the Meiteis continue to marry within the community but nuptial ties outside the clan is preferred; distinct culture including Thang-Ta, Mukna, Yubi Lakpi, Arambai etc identify the Meiteis, historical and geographical isolation need not be over stressed and one just has to acknowledge the chicken neck syndrome that continues to plague the region and the people, socio-economic backwardness where the per capita income of Manipur for 2021-2022 has been pegged at below the Rs one lakh mark. It is for the Centre to decide whether the criteria/reality briefly spelt out here is fit for the Meiteis to be included in the ST list or not, but tagging the Tribal Solidarity March of May 3 to the ST for Meitei demand, which sparked the present conflict is a misnomer, a desperate attempt to take along all the tribal groups against the Meiteis in the present clash. The UNC has already made its stand clear on this.