Imphal (SPN) | The High Court of Manipur has directed the state government to send recommendations to the Centre (Ministry of Tribal Affairs) expeditiously for the inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei tribe in ST list of the Constitution.
The directive came after a petition was filed by the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union (MTU) demanding their inclusion in the ST list. The court has also directed the government to consider the case preferably within four months.
The majority of valley MLAs have already endorsed the demand of STDCM and its supporters, although the State Government hasn’t given a concrete statement on the matter yet.
Chief Minister N Biren has been maintaining a stoic silence on the issue. While some hill-based organisations have dubbed the demand illogical, the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM), World Meetei Council, Meetei Tribe Union, and other organizations have been demanding tribal status for Meetei/Meitei.
According to the petitioners, Meetei/Meitei used to be a tribal group before the Merger Agreement was inked on September 21, 1949. The tribe lost its tribal tag after signing the Merger Agreement, and the restoration of the status is imperative to preserve the ancestral land, tradition, culture, and language of the ethnic group.
The Court heard submissions from the Deputy Solicitor General of India and the Government Advocate, who observed that the grievances of the petitioners is that Meetei/Meitei lost the tribal status after Manipur merged with the Union of India.
The Court also observed that the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union submitted a representation to the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs on April 18, 2022, to include Meetei/Meitei in the ST list.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs forwarded the said representation to the Secretary of Manipur Government on May 31, 2022, as a recommendation of the State Government is a prerequisite to process the case.
The High Court of Manipur, after disposing of the writ petition, directed the State Government to submit the recommendation to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs and also “consider the case of the petitioners for…”
The inclusion of Meetei/Meitei in ST list of the Constitution has been a contentious issue, with the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) raising intense opposition.
ATSUM met the Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda to apprise the latter about their opposition over the ST demand for Meetei/Meitei.
However, the directive of the High Court has been welcomed by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM) and others who back the demand.
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