Taking the ST demand to the election ring Need to keep tempo up

The ST for Meiteis campaign is on track and rightly so for this is ideally the moment to pile the pressure on the different political parties as well as the candidates to let them voice their stand on the demand which is gaining momentum by the day. At the same time it is also important for the champions of the ST for Meiteis demand to see how the tempo can be maintained after the election dust settles. The campaign must be taken to the next level after the Lok Sabha elections and sustained in such a way that it becomes a central point when Manipur goes for her Assembly elections in 2027. Next on the agenda should obviously be to see how the demand can be made a people’s movement, a sort of a movement that can jolt the Government awake to the seriousness of the demand. It is along this line that the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) has started calling on the different candidates in the Inner Parliamentary Constituency to give a further boost to the demand. The meet the candidate campaign may be seen as a continuation of the earlier drive when STDCM met the Meitei MLAs to get their stand on the issue and one hopes that the campaign is taken to its next logical level. The first man, an Independent candidate, Retired Colonel Haorungbam Sarat has already made his stand clear and in all likelihood the other five candidates will also air a somewhat similar stand. Here it is important for the STDCM to try and get to know the stand of the political parties the candidates are representing at the hustings. If this is actualised then it would go a long way in understanding where the different political parties stand on the demand raised for ST categorisation. One also hopes the people keep a close tab on the unfolding development and the mobilisation drives conducted by the World Meetei Council in different parts of the State in the last couple of days falls perfectly in line with the call to keep up the tempo and take the demand into the realm of election. A call which The Sangai Express has been advocating for some time now. Try and make the ST for Meiteis demand one of the more prominent issues in the elections and the focus of all should be to see what steps may be taken up to let the issue feature prominently ahead of the 2027 Assembly elections. The Meetei/Meitei Tribe Union (MMTU) has also made it clear that they would refrain from taking part in the coming Lok Sabha to lodge their stand that taking part in the Parliamentary elections without addressing the survival question of the Meiteis would be meaningless. A significant and powerful statement this is, and one needs to look at the decision of the MMTU beyond the call to stay away from the elections to understand the urgency of the matter. This line of thinking would become clearer when viewed against the fact that it was back in 2013 that the Union Tribal Ministry had sought an ethnographic and socio-economic report of the Meiteis to consider its inclusion in the ST category. The Meiteis did miss the bus decades back, but this should not justify the delay in sending the report now.
The task before the STDCM, WMC, MMTU and others who vouch for the ST demand must be clear. Not easy it is going to be and this is where it becomes important for the ST for Meiteis champions to clearly identify the hurdles and work a way out to negotiate through the roadblocks that may come up from different quarters. For this they would need to reach out to as many allies as possible. A roadmap for the internal arrangements for Manipur may also be worked out, that is if it has not been worked out at the moment. Models of different States such as Nagaland may be studied to understand the internal arrangements made for the different tribal groups within that State in so far as recruitment to Government jobs is concerned. There is no reason why a leaf or two cannot be taken out from the Nagaland model. The road ahead is obviously going to be long and this is precisely one reason why the ST for Meiteis champions need to reach out to others as much as possible and see how to take everyone along with their idea, especially from amongst the section of Meiteis who are opposed to the idea of being tagged a Scheduled Tribe. All possible avenues must be studied and for the moment, the focus must be on how to make the ST demand a major point in the coming Lok Sabha elections. Make the issue reverberate in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.