Adding muscle to ST demand Now look beyond LS poll

Campaigning has come to a close and while it remains to be seen who will go to Parliament to represent Manipur, this is perhaps the time to ponder over whether the very act of sending a new face or new faces to the Lok Sabha will mean anything positive for Manipur. Only time will tell, but let it be very clear much will depend on the type of candidate the voters choose to represent the interests of Manipur on the floor of the highest decision making body in the country. Stretch this understanding a little bit and it should also be obvious to everyone that it is important for Manipur to send her men to Delhi who can represent the people and the place in a much better light to the rest of the country. Other than choosing the right candidate to represent the interests of the place and her people, it need not be overemphasised that there is the need for the people to keep up the tempo of keeping alive the issues which they had taken to the different candidates. Apart from protecting and promoting the understanding of Manipur as a geo-political reality, the need to take the ST for Meiteis demand a notch or two or three higher need not be overemphasised here. Thanks to the efforts of the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee (STDCM), the ST for Meiteis demand did make its presence felt in the run up to the Lok Sabha election in the Inner seat, but the need to keep up the momentum should not be lost on anyone. The World Meetei Council seems intent on taking the demand to every section of the Meitei people while the Meetei/Meitei Tribe Union has on more than one occasion made its presence felt. From the stage of mobilising the candidates, the STDCM and all the champions of the ST demand should now focus on how to take this drive to the level of the political party to which the candidates belong to. From the individual level to the level of the political party must be the next step and the miss call campaign that was launched some time back is a point that needs to be highlighted at each available opportunity. Just as the WMC has been maintaining, the need for a Constitutional protection of the Meitei people should be stressed and restressed again to jolt Imphal to the need of the time. The ongoing clash and the recent past should more than make it clear that it is the Meitei community which has been holding aloft the flag of Manipur as a distinct geo-political reality and ensuring the future of this community is a must if Manipur is to continue as a distinct reality. A point which must be made very clear to the Government at Imphal.
The Sangai Express has on more than one occasion explained why the Meiteis should ask for Constitutional protection under the ST tag. Let there be debates on whether the Meiteis need the ST tag or not, and The Sangai Express has on more than one occasion carried the debates for and against the demand. What however should be clear is the plain fact that if the Meiteis do not fill the bill to be tagged as ST, then let the Centre decide that. But at least send the ethnographic and socio-economic report of the Meiteis as sought by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs way back in 2013. Sending the report or recommendation should in no way mean that the Meiteis would be automatically included in the ST category. The argument why the report should be sent rests on the premise that since the Centre had sought the report, it is only fitting that such a report is sent. What is stopping the State Government from sending the report ? In sending the report, Imphal will not be overstepping its brief of taking the role of a messenger and obviously messengers cannot be shot or pulled up. This should be the rational approach. Agreed that the Meiteis did miss the bus on more than one occasion, but why should the present and future generation pay the price for the folly of the past ? And remember the decision to object any move to be included in the ST list was not a decision taken after it came out in the public domain. Come April 19 and votes for the first phase of the election would have been cast, but remember it is not just a question of pushing a button on the EVM but is about electing the man who would represent the people and the place for the next five years in Parliament and beyond.