The All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) and its supporters must accept the reality that they are now driving Bolera instead of riding Buffaloes, which is a sign of their advanced status in Manipur. Meanwhile, it is illogical to stand against the constitutional and legitimate demand by Meitei to be included in the ST list.
It is very unfortunate that the ATSUM leader announced that they will oppose the movement of the Schedule Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) every tooth and nail so that Meitei are not included in the ST list. The question of whether Meitei must be listed in the Schedule Tribes of India should be left to the government and not to some student organizations who are immature and lacks knowledge. They must refer Lokur Committee before meeting the stakeholders.
Of late, ATSUM and its supporters have been instigating a communal divide in the State and have submitted a series of Memorandums filled with factual errors which are misguiding the National leaders and the media. ATSUM leaders need to study in depth what are the criteria for giving ST status to any particular community.
It is not surprising that Zomi Students’ Federation (ZSF) came out to support ATSUM. ZSF has encourages the ATSUM to continue their efforts and stand firm to oppose the inclusion of Meitei as a Schedule Tribes. The message is loud and clear about how lawmakers have made blunders while enumerating the list of STs from Manipur in 1949.
The Dewan of Manipur State sent a letter to the Secretary, Govt of India, Ministry of States with regards to the enumeration of Schedule Tribes and Schedule Caste on 6th June 1949 where a list of 24 tribes was sent as ST which includes Kuki, Kacha Naga, Tangkhul, Kabui, Maring, Kom, Chiru, Koireng, Maram, Mao, Anal, Chothe, Purum, Tarao, Khoibu, Moyon, Monsang, Aimol, Thangal, Kharam, and Kwatha, etc.
However, the list was modified and resent on 31st August 1949 where particular tribes who originally migrated from the Lushai Hills to Manipur were also included. Thus, the ST list of Manipur included the Mizos which further divides into several sub-classes nowadays. This is one of the reasons why several organizations like the World Meetei Council (WMC) have sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to delist some communities from the ST list of Manipur.
Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL) has denounced the ATSUM’s irresponsible protest of opposing the Meitei demand for ST. KKL Secretary, Ngamkheingakpa Luwang said, “A Constitutional safeguard is a must to protect the Meitei/Meetei community.” Luwang also asked ATSUM to answer for acting against the demand for ST status.
“ATSUM should provide an answer for their action against the demand for ST status. Are all the constituent indigenous tribal student bodies affiliated with ATSUM supporting the roadblock to Meitei demands for ST? They should provide an answer and make their stand clear within 15 days.”
If an answer is not given, KKL would be launching protests against ATSUM.
Contrary to what ATSUM claims and propagates, Meitei is not a majority community. There are more than 25 lakhs Kuki tribes in India. Even, the total population of Naga is around 20 lakhs. Meitei’s population in India is not more than 15 lakhs. What is the parameter for referring to Meitei as the majority community by ATSUM? The legitimate demand for the inclusion of Meitei in the ST list is to protect the Meitei from extinction through constitutional safeguards which are now enjoyed by major communities themselves.
Even if the ATSUM is talking of the Meitei population of Manipur alone, the total population of Meitei in the State is around 7,51,822 which is 26.3 percent(Census 2011) while the existing Schedule Tribes communities of Manipur (Kukis and Nagas) comprises of 8,02,839, roughly 28.2 percent of the total State population. Like the Kukis and Nagas, Meitei is also a conglomerate of several clans (Mangang, Luwang, Khuman, Angom, Moirang, Khaba Nganba, and Sarang Leishangthem.
Thus, the ATSUM theory of Meitei as a major community is a complete hoax. The largeness of the community also is not a subject matter in the recognition of Scheduled Tribe in India. There are 1.6 crores of Bhils ST, 74 lakh Santhal ST, 30 lakh ST, 38 lakh Nayak ST, 56 lakh Gujjar ST, 47 lakh Meena ST, 23 lakh Munda ST, etc. in the Country
Let us not count how many IAS, Indian Ambassadors, IPS, MCS, or MPS are in each community as a yardstick for finalizing whether a particular community is advanced or not. These professions are by choice of individuals and do not relate to the community. ATSUM cannot count the heads of a few selective bureaucrats like their forefathers count human heads to decide who is more powerful in the uncivilized days.
Who are the advanced community as per ATSUM?
If ATSUM really wants to figure out who is the advanced community in present Manipur, they must come out with a list who are those communities which are having properties in Mantripukhri, Sangaiporou, Chingmeirong, Langol, Game Village, or even at the main Imphal markets. The buying capacities of those who are now owning lands in these prime locations are definitely a sign of advanced communities. The so-called “Advanced Meitei” are unable to buy lands in Sangaiporou or Game Village which costs Rs 40-50 lakhs per Sangam, but “Backward ATSUM supporters” are easily buying those lands at an exorbitant price for the last 10-20 years.
ATSUM supporters write that Meitei cannot be granted ST status, the reason being Meitei are Hindus. It is funny that these supporters are also advocating the theory that only Christians must be listed as ST in Indian Constitution. Recognizing a particular community in the ST list does not depend on religion. Most of the communities included in the ST list are either Hindu or Buddhist.
The latest criteria for recognizing a community as Scheduled Tribes under Indian Constitution must meet some of the following points:
(1) Primitive ways of life and habitation in remote and less easily accessible areas.
Meitei people are practicing primitive and traditional ceremonies like Lai Haraoba, Laisha Tanba, Saroi Khangba, Ipan Thaba, Chakumba, Cheiraoba, Isaiphu Latpa, Mei Latpa, etc. Will ATSUM President Paotingthang Lupheng and General Secretary Sinruwung Andria tell us any specific primitive ways of their supporters who are also following the primitive ways of life?
Are those communities in Dewhlaland, Chingmeirong, Haokip Veng, Kangpokpi, and Churachandpur staying in remote and less easily accessible areas of Manipur? If these people are included in the ST list, why can’t the Meitei staying in Chingmeirong, Thangmeiband, Thoubal, Sugnu, Kwatha, and Churachandpur be on the ST list?
(2) Autonomous religious practices
Barring a few indigenous people staying in the hills and foothills of Manipur, the majority of ST people living in Manipur do not follow Autonomous religious practices. However, Meitei has been following the traditional and indigenous faiths for ages, much before the establishment of religions like Christianity and Islam in the World. Meitei is ancestors worshipers who best fitted into the criteria of the ST list in the Constitution.
(3) Social-Economic and education backwardness
Well, we all know the per capita income of Manipur of Rs 24,042 is one of the lowest in India. Of the eight Northeast states, Manipur’s per capita income is the lowest which speaks that the State is still economically backward. Rather, we could say, there is not a single community in the Northeast that could be termed as an “advanced community” when the whole NE states contribute a meager 2.90 percent of the total National GDP.
Lam Khan Piang in his article “Moving Backward” suggested as the Meitei language is in the 8th Scheduled so Meitei must not be put in the Scheduled Tribe list of India. There is no question that a community will bar from recognition of a Scheduled Tribe if they speak a language under the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Such researchers are misguiding and encouraging communal organizations like ATSUM and ZSF to stand against the demand for the inclusion of Meitei in the ST list.
Piang must study more to write articles with facts. Several communities speaking Santhali, Boro, Marathi, and Nepali ( all in the 8th Schedule) are recognized Scheduled Tribes of India.
The hollow man arguments of ATSUM countering Meitei cannot be included in the ST list of India as Meitei have a kingdom in past and has a long written history is another misinformed and misguided propaganda from the communal student organizations. Some of the ST communities like Munda, Meena, Gujjar, Gonds, Bhutia, Nayak, and Tripuri have established their kingdoms dating back to 1500 BC. Even the Ahom community having a powerful kingdom is in the process of inclusion in the ST list.
The process for inclusion of the Meitei and Ahom communities in the Schedule Tribe list was finalized in the 1980s. However, it got delayed and both communities from the Northeast are ready to be included sooner.
The demand for the inclusion of Meitei in the Schedule Tribe list of Manipur is just to protect and safeguard the community, and it has nothing to do with other communities. Meitei included in the ST list will not affect any particular community.