Time to set right the narrative Beyond the Judiciary

It is unfortunate and hard to accept that even after more than 10 months of the ethnic clash erupting on May 3, 2023, New Delhi continues to stick to the wrong narrative that the violence erupted because the Manipur High Court ‘recommended Scheduled Tribe status to the Meiteis’. This is the line maintained by Union Minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju in a talk with NDTV on March 7, 2024 and while his stand that dialogue is the only way forward is acknowledged, it is disappointing to see that the Union Minister is still under the impression that the High Court recommended the inclusion of a community in the ST list of the Constitution of India. To set the record straight, what the High Court of Manipur ruled was that the report or recommendation sought by the Union Tribal Ministry on the inclusion of the Meiteis in the ST list must be submitted within three months from the day the order was issued. Everyone knows that it is beyond the Judiciary to include a community in the ST list and it is only Parliament which can do that. While this was something deliberately or otherwise overlooked by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) while going ahead with the Tribal Solidarity March on May 3, 2023,  it should have been clear that what the High Court did was to direct the Government of Manipur to send the report, a report which was sought by the Centre back in 2013. It was just an order asking the State Government to send the report sought by the Centre and not an order that the Meiteis be included in the ST list. This is where the hollowness of the claim that the clash erupted over the ST for Meiteis demand and the directive of the High Court should be called out. The Sangai Express has been consistent in its stand and the clash that erupted on May 3, 2023 is far removed from the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST list and one wish that New Delhi too come around to this idea, if the first, meaningful step towards normalcy is to be taken. And this is primarily one prominent reason why the clash has continued for over 10 months on the trot. Open your eyes and see things for what it is, is the one line suggestion that may be offered to New Delhi or anyone in the quest for normalcy to return and it makes no sense in trying to shift the onus on the ruling of the Court.
Even as the false narrative continues, it is also interesting to note Union Minister of State for Education and External Affairs, Dr RK Ranjan Singh pointing fingers at ‘some few political leaders, a handful of armed groups and wrongly motivated scoundrels’ for the unrest to continue. This is all that more significant given that these points were given in writing to no one less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. How seriously the Prime Minister would have taken the written communication remains to be seen, but in one line the Union Minister of State has done what many would have found difficult to muster the courage and conviction to put three groups of people in the same bracket vis-a-vis the ongoing clash-’some few political leaders, a handful of armed groups and wrongly motivated scoundrels.’ Dr RK Ranjan has not taken names but many would have started reading between the lines, trying to decipher the unsaid part. This is where it would be interesting to see how and when Delhi would respond, that is if the Prime Minister takes the words of his Minister seriously enough. Wrongly motivated is par for the course but qualifying this with the word ‘scoundrels’ is significant and many would not have expected the mild mannered and soft spoken RK Ranjan to use such a term but it reflects a degree of angst and disillusionment. Folks on either side of the clash divide may read the words, ‘some few political leaders, a handful of armed groups and wrongly motivated scoundrels‘ differently and how the Prime Minister respond to this is something that may never be spelt out, but which may come in later developments in which it would be difficult to put a finger to. Perhaps things may become clearer once the Lok Sabha election is held.